The Muscogee (Creek) Nation issued a citizenship card to Shannon Kepler on August 10, 2017, according to a copy filed in Oklahoma court.
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Oklahoma plans to ask court to reconsider ruling on Muscogee Nation boundaries





The state of Oklahoma plans to ask the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a landmark ruling that affirmed the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

The state has until September 21 to file a petition for rehearing, according to an order granted last week. A motion cited the sweeping nature of the court's August 8 decision in Murphy v. Royal.

"If this court’s opinion stands, other criminal defendants in Oklahoma (past, present and future) may argue that the state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute criminal cases over areas that are home to over a million Oklahoma citizens," Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter wrote in the motion, which asked for more time to file the petition due to the complexity of the issue.

The decision is indeed having an impact on criminal cases. Three days after it was issued, a former police officer accused of murder said the state lacked jurisdiction to prosecute him because he is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and because his alleged crime occurred within the boundaries of the reservation.

According to an August 11 motion, Shannon Kepler was issued a tribal citizenship just two days after the 10th Circuit's decision. Despite the late action and some media reports describing him as "white", he always has been Creek, based on documents submitted to the tribe.

But he wasn't a citizen at the time he allegedly murdered Jeremy Lake in 2014. The district attorney in Tulsa County plans to bring that issue up in hopes of keeping Kepler's case in the state system, The Associated Press reported. He is due to go to trial for a fourth time on October 9, according to records in his case.

The federal government otherwise would be able to exercise jurisdiction over a crime that was committed by an Indian in Indian Country. That could happen in the case of Patrick Dwayne Murphy, a Muscogee citizen was sentenced to death in Oklahoma for a murder that occurred on a Muscogee allotment.

The 10th Circuit ruled that Murphy could not be prosecuted in Oklahoma because Congress never "disestablished" the Creek Reservation even though portions were parceled out during the allotment era. If he were convicted in the federal system, the death penalty likely would not be on the table due to a provision that recognizes a tribe's authority to refuse or accept the death penalty for certain crimes committed on their lands.

The Sac and Fox Nation is so far the lone tribe to utilize the so-called "opt in" provision found in 18 U.S. Code § 3598. But no one has been executed for a crime on the tribe's lands in Oklahoma, the AP reported.

There are instances in which a tribe has no say in the matter. During the Bush administration, federal prosecutors in Arizona secured a death sentence against a citizen of the Navajo Nation because one of his crimes was not linked to the tribal provision.

Read More on the Story:
Former officer injects new racial element in 2014 slaying (The Associated Press August 23, 2017)
Ruling on Muscogee (Creek) reservation may have huge implications (KRMG August 22, 2017)
Most American Indian tribes opt out of federal death penalty (The Associated Press August 21, 2017)

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Murphy v. Royal (August 8, 2017)

Related Stories:
Muscogee Nation issues citizenship to former police officer accused of murder (August 14, 2017)
Muscogee Nation welcomes decision affirming the boundaries of its reservation (August 9, 2017)
Muscogee Nation citizen wins reversal of death penalty conviction in Oklahoma (August 8, 2017)
Appeals court hears slew of Indian cases amid focus on Supreme Court nominee (March 23, 2017)