Jurisprudence in Oklahoma is in limbo after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state has no jurisdiction in cases that occur on what was once an Indian reservation or when the accused or victim are members of a recognized Indian tribe.
The repercussions are far-reaching and now at stake are the multiple murder convictions and death sentence in a McClain County case.
A McClain County jury convicted Shaun Bosse in late 2012 of the heinous 2010 slayings of a Dibble woman and her two young children.
Katrina Griffin and her 6-year-old son, Christian Griffin, were stabbed numerous times.
Bosse then took Griffin’s 4-year-old daughter, Chasity Hammer, in a closet, wedging the door shut before setting the family’s mobile home on fire.
Bosse was dating Katrina Griffin after they met online. He murdered the family to cover up his theft of a computer, Play Station video game system and movies belonging to Griffin and her son.
Bosse’s attorneys appealed his conviction, arguing that the state had no jurisdiction in the case.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals sent the case back to McClain County District Court, seeking the answers to two questions – were the victims Native American and did the crime occur on an Indian Reservation.
District Attorney Greg Mashburn’s office stipulated that Griffin and her children were enrolled members of the Chickasaw Nation.
And District Judge Leah Edwards found the family lived on Indian reservation land and that Congress never ended the treaty that created the reservation more than 150 years ago.
Mashburn said it is now up to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to uphold or overturn Bosse’s conviction and death sentence.
The Supreme Court ruling means that two-thirds of the state is still Indian reservation land and calls into question every criminal case since statehood, Mashburn said.
So far-reaching is the ruling that the hands of local law enforcement are tied unless the officers are certified to investigate crimes on Indian land.
Mashburn said it may be two months or longer before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rules on Bosse’s case.
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has given the opposing sides until November 4 to submit briefs in the Bosse case.
In the meantime, hundreds of criminal cases are stacking up across most of Oklahoma.
One solution would be for Congress to formally dissolve the treaties that created the reservations.
But the tribes are acting against that and are filing lawsuits to block any such action.
The Creek Nation has gone so far as to file suit seeking the return of all court fines since statehood.
That tribe also wants back all of the property taxes paid on reservation land.
The Supreme Court ruling also put a hiatus on the state’s ability to enter into compacts with any tribe.
Anticipating that Bosse’s conviction may be overturned, Mashburn has been in contact with federal prosecutors.
It is all troubling to Mashburn, who called Bosse a serial killer. It was Bosse’s attorneys who pinned that label on their client during his trial in McClain County.
They approached Mashburn with an offer.
Bosse would confess to two previous murders if Mashburn would take the death penalty off the table.
Mashburn turned them down and to this day he doesn’t know who those victims were.