Two separate criminal cases have either reached an abrupt end or moved to the next stage because of a recent high court ruling on Native American jurisdiction.
One of those cases is for Aaron Patchell, 24, of Pauls Valley as two manslaughter charges were dismissed at the state level last week as it now moves to federal court.
Another, also involving manslaughter counts, is for Matthew Imotichey, 32, whose request for post conviction relief because of his tribal connections took a dramatic reversal recently with a new state court ruling.
As for Patchell the move came just days before the start of his scheduled jury trial in Garvin County District Court.
Patchell had been set to face jurors starting Sept. 13 on the accusation he caused a two-vehicle traffic accident in 2019 resulting in the tragic deaths of 13-year-old Kadence Hewett and her brother, Gunner Hewett, 9.
Instead, the state charges facing Patchell were dismissed and the case moved to the federal level because of a ruling last year by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Coming in July 2020, the decision called the McGirt ruling, the U.S. court determined Native American reservation boundaries dating back to the 19th century were never formally disestablished for parts of Oklahoma, which includes all of Garvin County.
That meant if an alleged crime took place on tribal lands and there was a Native American connection for a defendant or victim in a case the state didn’t have the jurisdiction to prosecute.
With a tribal connection established in the Patchell case, the state charges leading to his scheduled trial were dismissed as officials here confirmed Patchell will now face the manslaughter charges in federal court.
A major development with the jurisdiction issue came just a few weeks ago, Aug. 12 to be exact, when the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the McGirt case was not retroactive.
For Imotichey the decision essentially ends his hopes of getting post conviction relief in the form of his release from prison.
“The case is mute,” said Garvin County Assistant District Attorney Corey Miner.
Five years ago Imotichey was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he admitted his guilt in causing the Oct. 23, 2013 traffic collision that resulted in the death of Tonja Pando, 21, and her unborn child.
Imotichey admitted to huffing compressed air as an inhalant just moments before the tragic accident occurred on the west side of Pauls Valley.
During a hearing in May it was determined Imotichey does have some Indian blood, he was a member of the Chickasaw Nation, a federally recognized tribe, at the time of the accident and the tragic wreck did occur on Chickasaw lands.
Only days after the state court’s ruling that McGirt was not retroactive prosecutors here moved to strike any further court proceedings in Imotichey's case, which includes any effort for post conviction relief.