MUSKOGEE – Last week the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion reversing the November 2020 federal jury conviction of Jimcy McGirt on two counts of Aggravated Sexual Abuse in Indian Country and one count of Abusive Sexual Contact in Indian Country.
The appellate court determined an improper instruction of law was given to the jury which could have impacted the verdicts and remanded the case to the district court.
“The role of the prosecution is to seek justice under the law,” said United States Attorney Christopher J. Wilson. “We are disappointed by the ruling, but we respect the opinion of the court. If a critical error occurred during the trial, then our goal was not achieved. The United States Attorney’s Office will, however, continue pursuing justice for the victim.”
In 1997, Jimcy Mc-Girt was tried and con-victed of First Degree Rape by Instrumentation, Lewd Molestation, and Forcible Sodomy in the District Court of Wagoner County.
While serving two 500 year sentences and a sentence of life without parole in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, McGirt, an Indian, challenged his conviction, arguing the crimes occurred in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reservation and Congress had never disestablished the reservation, therefore, the State of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction to prosecute him.
On July 9, 2020, the United States Supreme Court agreed with Mc-Girt and vacated his state convictions.
The Supreme Court ruling meant that crimes involving Native American defendants which happened on reservations are to be tried by the federal government or tribal prosecutors. Several people were released from state custody following the decision and given federal trials.
McGirt was subsequently charged in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.
In 2021 he was convicted by a federal jury after evidence was presented proving the defendant sexually assaulted a four-year-old child and given a life sentence.
That conviction was overturned a week ago, on June 20, by a federal appeals court, ruling that a trial judge had unfairly limited how the jury could consider inconsistent witness testimony in comparison of the 2020 and the 1997 original trial. The jury should have been allowed to consider the validity of old statements, though they were instructed against that in 2020.