Supreme Court says Oklahoma man should stay on death row as tribal case plays out

The U.S. Supreme Court said Oklahoma can keep custody of Shaun Michael Bosse while his overturned conviction is further considered. File Photo by Stefani Reynolds/UPI

May 27 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that an inmate on Oklahoma’s death row must stay in the state’s custody while the high court considers tribal jurisdiction issues.

The court issued a stay in the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals’ ruling tossing the murder conviction and death sentence of Shaun Michael Bosse.

Bosse was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in 2010 for the deaths of his girlfriend, Katrina Griffin, and her two children, Christian Griffin and Chasity. Griffin and her children were members of the Chickasaw Nation and their slayings happened on tribal lands.

The conviction was overturned earlier this year after the Supreme Court ruled that state courts don’t have jurisdiction over crimes that happen on tribal land and involve tribal members. In July 2020, the court ruled that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma is considered the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation, meaning state prosecutors don’t have authority to pursue cases involving Native Americans there.

The high court voted 5-4 in favor of a Jimcy McGirt, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation who is serving a 500-year prison sentence for child molestation.

The so-called McGirt ruling was expected to have repercussions for hundreds of convictions won by state prosecutors in the region, including in the Bosse case.

Wednesday’s stay allows the Oklahoma attorney general’s office to make its case to the Supreme Court, arguing that McGirt shouldn’t apply to Bosse since he’s not Native American. The Chickasaw Nation said it supports the federal prosecution of Bosse for the slayings.

Even if the Supreme Court determines that the McGirt ruling still applies in the Bosse case, it doesn’t mean Bosse will walk free. Rather, it means he must be prosecuted under the Major Crimes Act. Only federal prosecutors can bring a case in crimes committed by or against American Indians on reservation land.


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