State abuse case now goes away

Christina Nelson-Coddington had her state charges and lifetime in prison sentence dismissed this week because of a court ruling on Native American jurisdiction. Her sexual abuse case could be moved to the federal level. (PV Democrat photo)

A Pauls Valley defendant facing a lifetime in prison had her state charges dismissed this week based on a high court ruling last year on Native American jurisdiction.

Called the McGirt decision, the split vote coming from the U.S Supreme Court in 2020 is having a big impact these days on many past cases in Oklahoma, including one for Christina Nelson-Coddington, 31.

Seated alone at a courtroom table in Pauls Valley on Monday, Nelson-Coddington was successful in showing her Native American descent was enough to dismiss the multiple state charges that put her behind bars.

Nelson-Coddington and her husband, Gerrad Coddington, 26, were both sentenced in December 2019 to a lifetime in prison without the possibility of parole after they admitted to taking part in sexual acts with Christina's two-year-old daughter and Gerrad's stepdaughter.

Both also admitted to beating her two young sons and often withholding food from them.

Garvin County District Judge Leah Edwards, who handed the couple their prison sentences, said the McGirt ruling made the law pretty clear as she granted Nelson-Coddington's request to dismiss the 12 state charges against her.

A state prosecutor didn't have much to argue as Nelson-Coddington proved that she has been a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe – the Citizen Potawatomi Nation – for many years, she does have some Indian blood, two of her children have some Indian blood and the crimes putting her in prison occurred in Garvin County, which is legally considered Chickasaw reservation land.

Edwards said this case is one of those times when the personal and moral codes of the court don't match up with the law.

“It is rare for me to see the evidence in a case and it will remain in my memories. Mrs. Coddington your case is one of those cases,” Edwards said from a Garvin County District courtroom.

“Mrs. Coddington, I sentenced you to a term of life in prison, and I still think it's an appropriate punishment.

“However, I took a vow to follow the law, and that's what I'm doing today.”

The judge cited Nelson-Coddington's tribal membership, her Indian blood and the crimes occurred on Indian territory when granting the order and dismissing the multiple state charges.

Despite the ruling Nelson-Coddington didn't walk away as the judge ordered a 10-day stay.

Julie Pittman of the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office said that time could be used for state officials to transition the case over to federal court.

•••

Now in the federal courts is another McGirt related case with a Pauls Valley connection.

Just last month Tanner Washington, 26, saw his state murder charge dismissed because of last year's Supreme Court decision.

Washington is accused of murdering 17-year-old Faith Lindsey of Pauls Valley. Lindsey has been missing since 2019.

Although Washington's state case was dismissed in Pontotoc County District Court he's now being prosecuted in federal court on a new murder allegation.

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