TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation continues working to ensure criminal justice is served following today’s Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) ruling, which dismissed criminal charges in the Hogner case and will likely lead to the dismissal of hundreds of other state criminal cases in the Cherokee Nation Reservation. Since the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision provided long overdue recognition of the reservation of the Muscogee Creek Nation and ultimately all of the Five Tribes, the Cherokee Nation has been hard at work to strengthen its justice system and protect its citizens, while fully preserving tribal sovereignty.
The tribe has met with district attorneys in all 14 counties within the reservation in anticipation of today’s OCCA ruling, which will now send cases to tribal or federal court for prosecution if the statute of limitations has not lapsed.
“For more than a century, the state of Oklahoma has prosecuted criminal cases where the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the state did not have jurisdiction. We are committed to ensuring our citizens – as well as our friends and neighbors in Oklahoma – are protected, which is why we have been preparing for expected case dismissals and are ready to take action to help victims and their families and, wherever possible, file charges in our courts,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Going forward, the Cherokee Nation is fully committed to working alongside federal and state partners to effectively prosecute criminals while fully preserving our sovereignty. This is why we continue to believe that Congress must authorize compacting that preserves 100 percent of McGirt and give tribes and the state increased flexibility and the option to cooperate to a greater degree on criminal matters.”
When cases are dismissed it will not mean all those defendants walk free, Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill said.
In the past few weeks, the Cherokee Nation Attorney General’s office has filed more than 300 cases in tribal court that were slated for dismissal by state courts. Many other cases will be refiled with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“For months now, the Cherokee Nation has been bolstering our capacity and strengthening our own criminal justice system in order to handle case dismissals in the wake of McGirt,” Attorney General Hill said. “We have invested in our tribal justice system, enhanced its capacity and collaborated with federal prosecutors on addressing major crimes. We upgraded our criminal code to ensure it is consistent with certain state laws and to simplify refiling dismissed cases in the Cherokee Nation’s courts. We are prepared to respond to today’s decision from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and, where possible, we have already been working to file cases in our courts and to transfer individuals to our custody when necessary.”
The Cherokee Nation has also invested $10 million to expand its marshal service and hire tribal judges, prosecutors and victim advocates in the wake of the McGirt ruling.
“The Cherokee Nation Marshal Service has dedicated more than 20 years working with fellow law enforcement entities across the reservation, and those partnerships and protection of citizens, apprehension for crime, and justice for families will never stop,” said Cherokee Nation Marshal Shannon Buhl.
Over the coming days, the tribe will also continue to speak with the victims and families involved in these cases to ensure they have the full support and resources they need.