TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A former police officer facing a fourth trial for the death of his daughter’s black boyfriend can’t be tried in Oklahoma because the shooting happened on American Indian territory, his attorneys argued in a new court filing.
Citing his membership in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, attorneys for ex-Tulsa Police Department Officer Shannon Kepler asked a judge Friday to dismiss the case because the 2014 shooting happened on land inside tribal territory. The Tulsa World reported that Kepler was issued a Creek Nation citizenship identification card on Thursday.
Kepler’s attorneys also cited a Tuesday decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned the first-degree murder conviction and death sentence of Oklahoma inmate Patrick Dwayne Murphy. He asserted that state courts lacked jurisdiction because he was a member of the Creek Nation and that the crime occurred on Indian territory.
The federal appeals court concluded that decisions about the borders of the Creek reservation remained with Congress.
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Kepler is charged in the August 2014 fatal shooting of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake. Kepler doesn’t deny shooting Lake, but told investigators he acted in self-defense because he thought Lake was armed. Police found no weapon on Lake or at the scene.
Three mistrials in less than a year have been declared in Kepler’s case. In the most recent trial, jurors deadlocked 6-6 last month after almost three hours of deliberations. Juries in Kepler’s previous two trials, in November and February, deadlocked 11-1 and 10-2 in favor of guilt before a judge declared mistrials after up to 12 hours of deliberations in each case.
Kepler’s fourth trial begins Oct. 9