A man who spent seven years in prison for a drunk driving crash that killed a 12-year-old boy has had his conviction dismissed due to the McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling on tribal jurisdiction in 2020.
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McGirt v. Oklahoma changed the way crimes are prosecuted in eastern Oklahoman involving Native American victims and defendants.
It ruled that Indian reservations in most of eastern Oklahoma were never disestablished at statehood, therefore, the state does not have jurisdiction to prosecute cases involving Native Americans that happened on tribal land.
The suspect, Richard Roth, is not a member of a tribe, but the boy he killed, 12-year-old Billy Lord, was.
Billy’s mother Pamela Sequichie said she feels like this is a slap in the face. She said she feels like her son's tribal citizenship is being used against him to benefit her son's killer.
Because Roth is not Native American, the tribe cannot pick up the case. The federal government can’t either, because the statute of limitations ran out in 2018, which means Roth could walk free.
“I knew that sooner or later, he was going to get out but that would give me that much time to learn how to live again. I feel like they are trying to force me to forgive somebody that took apart of my life away from me.” said Sequichie.
She said all the emotion and pain she's been trying to work through for eight years is all coming back now.
“It’s like an insult. It is an insult to Billy’s memory, it’s an insult to justice,” said Sequichie.
Billy was walking home with his brother in November 2013 when Roth hit and killed him. Roth left the scene, then later came back. Investigators say Roth had a blood alcohol content of .29, more than three times the legal limit.
A jury found Roth guilty of manslaughter and he was sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Sequichie said she has never thought that sentence was harsh enough, but she accepted it and started to focus on learning how to live without her son. Now, she can’t.
“Now because of this, I feel that me and my family is not ever going to find peace, because there was no justice. To be honest with you, I hope everyone that has taken part in this, I hope they see Billy’s face for the rest of their lives, and it haunts them,” said Sequichie.
Wagoner County District Attorney Jack Thorp said he will be asking the Oklahoma Attorney Generals office to appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. If that doesn’t work, Roth could will walk free.