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SCOTUS to hear Castro-Huerta case in April

The U.S. Supreme Court
J. Scott Applewhite

The U.S. Supreme Court has set a date to hear Oklahoma’s challenge to a landmark 2020 ruling upholding tribal jurisdiction in a wide swath of eastern Oklahoma.

The State of Oklahoma wanted the nation’s High Court to consider a petition to overturn the McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling.

In January, justices declined the review of dozens of petitions from the state and decided to consider a narrow question about whether Oklahoma has the right to prosecute non-Indians who commit felony crimes against Native people on reservation land.

Justices will hear oral arguments on April 27 in the case of Victor Castro-Huerta. He’s a non-native man who was convicted in Oklahoma district court of neglecting his disabled five-year-old stepdaughter and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

But after the McGirt ruling, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the conviction, saying the state did not have jurisdiction to prosecute Castro-Huerta because his victim is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and the crime was committed on reservation land.

The arguments before the court will consider whether the state should have concurrent jurisdiction in cases where a non-Native person commits a violent crime against a Native person on reservation land.

A ruling is expected this summer.

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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