Oklahoma Court Upholds Conviction of Death Row Inmate Who Killed 2 on Former Tribal Land

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the death sentence of a man with a double murder conviction despite his arguments that the state didn't have jurisdiction on the tribal lands where the crimes occurred. Mica Martinez, 41, was found guilty for the October 2009 killings of Carl Miller, 64, and Martha Miller, 55, in the Comanche County community of Cache.

Martinez had said that he was a member of the Comanche Tribe and the killings were carried out within the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation's borders. The court, however, said that this area in southwest Oklahoma was disestablished as a reservation long ago, which made the land the property of the state.

Martinez's case is not the first to force courts to consider the issue of state jurisdiction on tribal lands. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling last year, called the McGirt decision, which found that Congress never formally disestablished the Muscogee Nation reservation in northeast Oklahoma.

"In cases long before McGirt, both the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and this Court had concluded that the Act of 1900 disestablished the Kiowa Comanche Apache Reservation, citing the language confirming complete tribal cession, transfer, conveyance, relinquishment, and surrender of all tribal claims to their reservation lands," the Oklahoma appeals court wrote in its opinion.

The appeals court also said that even if the reservation had not been disestablished, it wouldn't have mattered because the Supreme Court already decided that it wouldn't retroactively apply the 2020 McGirt ruling to prior convictions.

McGirt Decision
An Oklahoma court upheld the death sentence of a man with a double murder conviction despite his arguments that the state didn’t have jurisdiction on the tribal lands where the crimes occurred. Above, the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

In Martinez's case, the district court in Comanche County held a hearing specific to the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation and determined that reservation was formally disestablished by Congress in the early 1900s.

Since then, lower courts have found the reservations of five other Native American tribes were also never disestablished, including the Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole and Quapaw.

Messages left Thursday with Martinez's public defender and an attorney for the Comanche Nation were not immediately returned.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Murder Conviction, Death Penalty Upheld
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the death sentence of Mica Martinez, 41, for a double murder conviction despite his arguments that the state didn't have jurisdiction on the tribal lands where the crimes occurred. Above, police lights. Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images