Tribal questions won't stop the law

This is the view from the outside of the new public lobby for the Garvin County Sheriff's Department, which just this week moved a few feet to the far end of the county courthouse annex. (PV Democrat photo)

The uncertainties, maybe even a level of chaos, coming from a new tribal jurisdiction law isn't stopping Garvin County law enforcement officials from doing their jobs.

That's the message of Sheriff Jim Mullett, who said this week that stories going around about some people being able to get away with criminal acts because of their Native American ancestry just aren't true.

The sheriff told Garvin County's commissioners on Monday his deputies will continue responding to all calls no matter the jurisdiction.

“Just because it's a Native American who commits a crime it doesn't mean they're going to get away with it,” Mullett said during the April 19 regular meeting.

“It just means there's another court they will get to go through. Lighthorse has the power to arrest, the power to prosecute, but we will still respond to all calls in the county,” he said, referring to the Chickasaw Nation's police department.

“Those times when we don't have jurisdiction we'll still secure the scene and any suspects until Lighthorse gets there.”

It all stems from last year's McGirt decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, followed just weeks ago by the reversal of the McClain County murder convictions and death row status for Shaun Bosse by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

In both decisions judges ruled most of Oklahoma, including Garvin County, is still legally recognized as Native American land because tribal reservations were never dissolved by the U.S. Congress.

As a result, they concluded the state of Oklahoma didn't have the authority to prosecute when defendants or victims have tribal ancestry.

Right now Mullett is looking at two possible agreements with the Chickasaw Nation – one to cross-deputize Lighthorse police officers and another giving Garvin County officials the legal ability to detain Native American suspects in the county jail here.

“Any agreement we come up with needs to benefit the citizens, the county and Lighthorse as well. We need something that benefits everyone.”

•••

The sheriff and his staff have made a long-anticipated move into their new home inside a recently remodeled space.

Just this week the offices of the sheriff's department are now located on the far west end of the county courthouse annex in Pauls Valley right next to the old one.

“We've moved over and are getting ready for the second phase,” Mullet said. “This will really allow us to spread out.”

The space is the former home for the district attorney and county assessor offices, which are now located on the second floor of the annex.

With the move into the new offices for the public now done the second phase referred to by Mullett is to remodel the space vacated. Plans include creating a new evidence room for the department.

Also nearly finished is the renovation of another first floor space, which will be a second office for the county court clerk.

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