Outrage: Killer of 3 to be set free because crimes occurred on Indian reservation

Outrage: Killer of 3 to be set free because crimes occurred on Indian reservation

David MagnanAn Oklahoman sentenced to death for brutally killing three people in cold blood is about to be a free man. The reason for the reversal is not that new evidence has been uncovered that exonerates the man. In fact, he has confessed to the crimes of his own free will. Rather, the murders took place on Indian land, and the state lacks the authority to prosecute him.

NewsOK reports that 50-year-old David Magnan’s murder convictions were voided by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Pursuant to the ruling, he was ordered removed from death row, where he has been held since 2004.

Magnan, who is a member of both the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, shot and killed three Seminole tribesmen and injured a fourth. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death on each murder count and received a life sentence in addition. But in 2012, his legal team appealed his conviction on the grounds that Oklahoma has no jurisdiction over the 372 acres that comprise the Seminole County reservation, where the shootings occurred. They maintained that the state, thus, had no right to prosecute their client.

The three-judge panel was inclined to agree, writing in its decision:

We conclude that the tract, at the time of Magnan’s crimes, was ‘Indian country’ and that exclusive jurisdiction over those crimes rests with the United States.

On reservations, only federal and tribal laws apply to members of the tribe, unless Congress has ruled otherwise. Since the American Indian heir of the Seminole County property never obtained approval of the Secretary of Interior to remove restrictions on the tract, it is still considered Indian land.

For now, Magnan is technically free to go until federal authorities re-arrest him. If he is tried and found guilty in a federal court, the likelihood that he will receive a death sentence is diminished.

In the meantime, the cost of a murder trial, depending on the name recognition of the victim or defendant or nature of the crime, can run anywhere from hundreds of thousands of dollars into the millions. The defense in the Jodi Arias case, as a case in point, is reported to have set taxpayers back $1.4 million. Wouldn’t it have behooved Oklahoma state prosecutors to determine before building a case against Magnan whether they had the necessary bona fides to move forward? Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office is said to be looking into the matter.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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