Some input from a Native American tribe will now come before state authorities in Pauls Valley can argue against a prison inmate’s push for freedom based on his Indian ancestry.
A request from the Chickasaw Nation resulted in last week’s postponement of a hearing in Garvin County District Court for Matthew Imotichey, 32.
Imotichey has been in prison for the last five years after admitting his guilt in causing the traffic accident that resulted in the death of Tonja Pando and her unborn child.
Panda was 21 when she died several days after the Oct. 23, 2013 collision on the west side of Pauls Valley with the vehicle driven by Imotichey, who moments earlier had huffed compressed air as an inhalant.
Imotichey, who was sentenced to a 30-year prison term, is arguing his Chickasaw membership and the fact the tragic accident occurred on what’s still considered tribal reservation land leaves the state with no authority to prosecute the charges that landed him in prison.
It stems from last year’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, called the McGirt decision, that Native American reservation boundaries dating back to the 19th century were never formally disestablished.
During a post conviction relief hearing in early May it was determined Imotichey does have some Indian blood, he was a member of a federally recognized tribe at the time of the 2013 accident and the tragedy did occur on Chickasaw lands, which include all of Garvin County.
A court hearing scheduled for May 28 to continue the argument didn’t happen after the Chickasaw Nation filed a brief asking for the tribe to have some time to address issues raised in the state’s supplemental response to Imotichey’s request for relief from a prosecution, conviction and sentence that came in a state court.
Court records show a part of the state’s response argues that “acquiescence” can have a legal consequence in the relationship between tribal and state boundaries.
“Here, no one can present any evidence that the Chickasaw Nation has ever performed police or fire protection or ever taxed, regulated or otherwise enforced any sovereign interest within the city of Pauls Valley, or in particular, the location where the petitioner killed the victim and her unborn baby prior to the decision in McGirt,” state prosecutors argue in the filed response.
“Despite one of its own citizens being investigated, charged, prosecuted and sentenced to prison in an Oklahoma state prison, the tribe did not seek to intervene but rather acquiesced in the state’s efforts.
“Now, in the wake of McGirt and Bosse, more than a century of silence is swept away with no pieces left to put together (or) to build a fresh prosecution due to the expiration of any statutes of limitations.”
The Bosse reference is to Shaun Bosse, who was convicted in McClain County of murdering a woman and her two children in 2010.
Earlier this year the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Bosse’s murder conviction and death sentence based on the McGirt decision.
The filed records show that same court ordered just days ago an indefinite stay in a McGirt effected case sending them to the district court to “determine whether the decision in McGirt should have a retroactive effect.”
The state is arguing that if Imotichey is granted post conviction relief the order for his release should be postponed pending further guidance from the higher state court.
“In the alternative the state would request additional time to address and argue this latest question of retroactivity.”
Imotichey’s case is expected to return to a Pauls Valley courtroom later this summer.