Tenth Circuit Decides Seminole Indian Country Habeas Appeal (Effectively Reversing Oklahoma Criminal COA)

Here are the materials in Magnan v. Trammell:

CA10 Opinion

Magnan Opening Brief

Seminole Tribe Amicus

Oklahoma Answer Brief

Magnan Reply Brief

An excerpt:

Petitioner David Magnan pleaded guilty in Oklahoma state court to three counts of murder in the first degree and one count of shooting with intent to kill. Magnan was sentenced to  death for each of the murder convictions and to a term of life imprisonment on the remaining conviction. Magnan argued on direct review that the crimes occurred in “Indian country,” 18 U.S.C. § 1151, and that, as a result, the state trial court lacked jurisdiction  over the crimes. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) held, however, that a  1970 conveyance to the Housing Authority of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma extinguished all Indian lands restrictions that had previously attached to the surface estate of the property where the crimes occurred. The OCCA further held that, even assuming that restrictions remained on 4/5ths of the mineral estate, such interest wasunobservable and insufficient to deprive the State of Oklahoma of criminal jurisdiction over the surface property at issue. In a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, Magnan again asserted that the crimes at issue occurred in “Indian country” and that the state trial court was without jurisdiction. The district court denied Magnan’s petition but granted him a certificate of appealability. Exercising jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we need only address the status of the surface estate to agree with Magnan that the location where the crimes occurred was “Indian country” because the requirements to extinguish the restrictions placed on Indian lands by Congress were not met and that, as a result, the state trial court lacked jurisdiction over the crimes. Consequently, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand with instructions to grant Magnan’s petition for writ of habeas corpus.

State court decision, with our commentary, here.