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Oklahoma opinion could affect South Dakota

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta expands jurisdiction over certain crimes committed in Indian country. Now states share jurisdiction with federal authorities.

That change could reach into South Dakota. A long-time federal prosecutor says the ruling is significant but its impact here is so far unknown.

Gregg Peterman
U.S. Attorney's Office
/
District of South Dakota
Gregg Peterman

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Peterman has been prosecuting violent crimes in Indian country since 1995.

He says federal authorities have always handled major crimes on reservation land and will continue to do so. But now, because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, that authority is concurrent with state jurisdiction.

“And with this decision, it appears that we will no longer be the sole prosecuting agency for that finite set of cases in which a non-Indian person commits a crime against an Indian person in Indian country on a reservation,” he said.

Peterman says this opinion is significant, and his office is assessing the impact and will reach out to tribes to discuss how to proceed.

But he says no matter what happens, the welfare of victims takes priority.

“We will proceed in the best interests of all parties, especially the victim, in this case,” he said. “We must never lose sight of that fact: no victim should go without justice.”

Peterman has recently taken on an expanded role in getting justice for victims. Earlier this year he joined the advisory commission appointed by the departments of Justice and Interior to carry out the Not Invisible Act, a federal law that focuses on the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people.

Rapid City Chief of Police Don Hedrick also serves on the 37-member commission that includes survivors and families.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007.
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