OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal appeals court Friday reversed the death sentences of an Oklahoma man who pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder because the crimes occurred in Indian Country and the state lacked the authority to prosecute him.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voided David Magnan’s convictions and ordered that he be released from state custody, but a three-judge panel said they presumed that federal authorities would arrest and prosecute Magnan “given the nature of the crimes and Magnan’s admitted guilt.”
Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office was reviewing the decision Friday “to determine our options,” spokeswoman Diane Clay said. One of those options is to request a rehearing before all nine members of the Denver-based court.
Magnan, 50, pleaded guilty in Seminole County District Court to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of shooting with intent to kill in a March 3, 2004, shooting in which three people died and a fourth was injured at a house in rural Seminole County. He was sentenced to death on each murder count and received a life sentence on the remaining count.
All of the victims except one were members of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.
Magnan, a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, appealed his convictions and sentences claiming that the crimes occurred on Indian land and that, therefore, Oklahoma could not prosecute him.
In a 36-page opinion, the court agreed, ruling that the land on which the shootings occurred was historically Indian land over which the federal government, not the state, has prosecutorial authority.
“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,” the decision states.