We are all equal or no one is free and we are one Oklahoma by history and choice. From today’s United States Supreme Court Decision in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta we can again agree in peace.
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said, “All Oklahomans, Indian and non-Indian alike, will now receive equal protection against being victimized by non-Indian criminals. [T]he Court’s precedents establish that Indian country is part of a State’s territory,” the Court said. “States do not need a permission slip from Congress to exercise their sovereign authority.” Accordingly, the Court “conclude[d] that the Federal Government and the State have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country.”
Tulsa District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said, “I am very grateful to Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor who did the heavy lifting in this case before the Supreme Court. This was a Tulsa County jury who decided the fate of Mr. Castro-Huerta (an illegal alien) who horribly neglected an Indian child and had the audacity to seek protection behind the McGirt precedent.
“Public safety is our foremost responsibility. Our focus is protecting our community and bringing justice to victims. We will resume what we have always done since 1907 – hold offenders accountable when we can for their wrongful conduct while coordinating our efforts with our Federal and Tribal partners,” Kunzweiler told Tulsa Today in an exclusive interview.
Castro argued that, because his victim was Indian, Oklahoma could not prosecute him. The Indian nations agreed with Castro in a brief filed with the Supreme Court. Castro argued that he could avoid State prosecution by harming only Indians. In rejecting his argument, the Court observed that Castro “would require this Court to treat Indian victims as second-class citizens. We decline to do so.”
Attorney General O’Connor said, “I commend the Supreme Court for its courage. Today’s ruling is an important first step in restoring law and order in our great State [which] is committed to the safety of all Oklahomans, Indian and non-Indian alike, and now non-Indian criminals cannot use discrimination to escape justice.”
In addition to its win as a petitioner in Castro-Huerta, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has also submitted amicus briefs on the prevailing side of twelve (12) cases at the U.S. Supreme Court this term. These briefs have resulted in decisions defending the Second Amendment right to bear arms, protecting the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion, and overturning Roe v. Wade, allowing States to defend the unborn and returning major policy decisions to the people and their elected representatives.
To read the opinion in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, click here. To read the Attorney General’s brief, click here or to read the syllabus prepared by SCOTUS Reporter of Decisions, click here.