Man at center of tribal sovereignty ruling heads to retrial

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation who was convicted in state court of sexually assaulting a child will be retried in federal court after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in July that Oklahoma prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal cases against Native Americans in parts of the state.

The case involved the boundaries of the Creek Nation. The high court determined that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma remains a Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation. As a result, either the federal government or the tribal nation has jurisdiction over crimes committed by or against Native Americans, not the state.

The ruling came in a challenge from Jimcy McGirt, 72, to his 500-year prison sentence and conviction in 1997 for molesting a child. After the Supreme Court decision, a federal grand jury indicted McGirt on three counts of aggravated sexual abuse.

McGirt’s federal trial starts this week in Muskogee. Jury selection is scheduled for Wednesday, the Tulsa World reported.

Doug Horn, senior litigation counsel for the U.S. attorney’s office in Muskogee, declined to respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

“The evidence can be managed,” said Richard O’Carroll, McGirt’s attorney. “The concern is the jury will be aware of the previous conviction, which makes the case difficult.”

U.S. District Judge John F. Heil III has ruled that prosecutors can admit evidence that McGirt allegedly wrote a letter, which has apparently been lost, while in prison to his now ex-wife, saying that the “the devil made him do it.”

Heil also ruled that evidence of McGirt’s past convictions for child molestation should not be presented to the jury. Prosecutors wanted to present evidence that McGirt pleaded guilty in 1989 to forcibly sodomizing two children ages 5 and 8.

Heil ruled that jurors can hear evidence from a physician who examined the girl in 1996 for signs she was sexually abused. Prosecutors plan to call the victim, who would now be in her 20s, to testify.

McGirt has been in the custody of the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office since his release from prison.

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