OKLAHOMA CITY—An Oklahoma appeals court on Tuesday reversed four of its previous rulings that overturned death penalty cases based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting state jurisdiction for crimes committed on tribal reservations.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals vacated rulings in the cases of death row inmates Shaun Bosse, James Ryder, Miles Bench and Benjamin Cole Sr.
Earlier this month the court ruled in a separate case that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in what is know as the McGirt case does not apply retroactively.
The McGirt ruling found that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction for crimes on tribal reservations in which the defendants or victims are tribal citizens.
A spokesperson for state Attorney General John O’Connor said it was not clear if the ruling reinstates the death penalty in the four cases.
“We’re reviewing (the ruling) right now to determine the next steps,” said O’Connor spokesperson Alex Gerszewski.
The court’s one paragraph rulings in each case said it will rule later on the inmate’s request for post-conviction relief. A ruling on post-conviction relief could still overturn, or uphold, either the conviction or the sentence.
Attorneys for the four inmates did not immediately return phone calls for comment.
Cole, 56, had been sentenced to death for killing his 9-month-old daughter in Rogers County in 2002 and Ryder, 59 for the 1999 killing of Daisy Hallum, 70, and to life without parole for killing her son, Sam Hallum, 38, in Pittsburg County.
Bosse was sentenced to die for killing his girlfriend and her two children and Bench for the death of a 16-year-old girl who was abducted from a convenience store.
Bench was found to be a member of the Choctaw Nation while the victims in the cases of Bosse, Cole and Ryder were tribal members and each crime occurred on tribal reservations.
O’Connor, the state attorney general, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its McGirt ruling.
Under McGirt, the cases fall to federal prosecutors to pursue and federal charges have been filed against Bench, Bosse and Cole.
By Ken Miller