Oklahoma court overturns two death sentences, citing McGirt

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday overturned the death sentences of two more convicted killers, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction for crimes on tribal reservations in which the defendants or victims are tribal citizens.

The court reversed the convictions of Benjamin Robert Cole Sr., 56, and 59-year-old James Chandler Ryder. Cole had been sentenced to death for killing his 9-month-old daughter in Rogers County in 2002. Ryder had been sentenced to death for the 1999 killing of Daisy Hallum, 70, and to life without parole for killing her son, Sam Hallum, 38, in Pittsburg County.

Phone calls to the attorney representing Cole and Ryder were not immediately returned.

In both cases, the crimes occurred on land within a tribe’s historical reservation and the victims were found to be, or were posthumously enrolled, as tribal citizens.

According to the Supreme Court ruling, known as McGirt, the cases now fall to federal authorities to pursue. Indictments have been issued in Cole’s case.

The state court has overturned at least eight murder convictions and the manslaughter conviction of a former Tulsa police officer based on McGirt, in addition to numerous other cases.

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