Latimer County judge to rule on tribe's reservation status

DERRICK JAMES | Staff photoKeith Davis, right, leaves a courtroom in the Latimer County Courthouse following a Friday hearing. 

WILBURTON — A Latimer County judge will make his decision following a Friday hearing on whether the reservation status of the Choctaw Nation was disestablished.

District 16 Associate District Judge Bill Welch will make a written decision in the time frame given to him by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals after the case against 79-year-old Keith Elmo Davis was remanded back to Latimer County.

Welch said he will read briefs submitted to him by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office and Davis’ defense counsel, McAlester attorney Blake Lynch, before making the decision.

Davis was found guilty by a Latimer County jury in 2005 on one count of forcible sodomy and one count of lewd of indecent proposal to a child under sixteen and was sentenced to consecutive 20- and 15-year sentences in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for the crimes, according to court documents.

OCCA remanded the case back to Latimer County District Court for an evidentiary hearing to determine Davis’s status as a Native American, if the reservation status of the Choctaw Nation was ever disestablished, and if not, the crime occurred within the historical boundaries of the tribe.

The court reporter of the case will now have 20 days to transmit the record of the case to the OCCA with Welch having an additional 20 days to issue a Findings of Fact and Conclusions behind his decisions on the remanded questions before submission to OCCA, which is expected to make a decision on if the analysis behind the Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt extends to the other Five Tribes, which includes the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

The Supreme Court ruled in July that Congress never “disestablished” the reservation status of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and overturned the state conviction of Jimcy McGirt, who was retried in federal court and found guilty in November.

Court records show the Supreme Court granted Davis a Writ of Certiorari the same day as the McGirt decision, which vacated a decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and remanded the case back to OCCA “for further consideration in light of McGirt v. Oklahoma.”

According to court documents, OCCA originally affirmed a 2019 Latimer County Judge’s decision to deny Davis’ post-conviction relief after he contended the state did not have jurisdiction to prosecute him due to his status as a Native American and the crime occurring within historical boundaries of the Choctaw Nation.

Contact Derrick James at djames@mcalesternews.com

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