The Comanche Nation is asking the court system to allow its participation and perspective in a potentially historic case relating to jurisdiction of tribal reservation lands.

The case involves Joshua Tony Codynah, 32, who is set to have an evidentiary hearing at 9 a.m. March 12 before Comanche County District Judge Emmit Tayloe.

Codynah entered a blind guilty plea in Comanche County District Court on Sept. 25, 2017, to four felony counts: first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, child neglect and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Tayloe sentenced Codynah to life in prison for murder, 20-year suspended sentences for the burglary and child neglect charges, and 15 years for the assault slated to run consecutively to the murder sentence.

Codynah asked the court to order an evidentiary hearing in his case and argued that by being a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and, on the grounds of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, that because the crime happened on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation area in Southwest Oklahoma, it should be considered.

The Comanche Nation filing was entered by Amy S. Montgomery from Dorsey & Whitney LLP, tribe legal counsel. The tribe asks to be allowed to participate as amicus curiae with the hearing.

An amicus curiae is someone who is not a party to a case who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case. The decision on whether to consider an amicus brief lies within the discretion of the court.

Montgomery said that all parties involved in the case have been contacted and are unopposed to the agreement.

The filing claims the Comanche Nation has a vested interested in the issue as to whether Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Reservation still exists or if it was disestablished by Congress following the Dawes Act of 1887. The filing cites the Creek Nation’s role as amicus curiae in the July 7, 2020, McGirt v. Oklahoma decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that decision, pertaining to the Major Crimes Act, much of the eastern part of Oklahoma is considered to remain Native American lands as the prior reservations for the Five Civilized Tribes. The ruling reasserted that there was never a disestablishment of the reservations as part of the Oklahoma Enabling Act of 1906.

The filing is meant to clarify an interpretation to tribal lands and treaties following the McGirt decision. The Comanche Nation is not interested in shielding Codynah “from responsibility for his crimes,” the filing states.

Codynah asserts that due to being a tribal member and the crimes happening on what was the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation, the McGirt ruling provides substance to effectively throw out his conviction in Comanche County.

Montgomery wrote that the Comanche Nation “has a strong interest in the fundamental question of whether the historical treaty lands given to the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache remains part of Indian Country” since the federal government has criminal prosecutorial jurisdiction over he State regarding major crimes committed on Indian lands.

The filing argues the Comanche Nation is “uniquely able” to address the issues and give voice to its 17,000 tribal members, 7,000 of whom live in the jurisdictional area around Lawton.

The issue, Montgomery argues, “directly bears on the Comanche Nation where under tribal law, the Comanche Nation’s Territorial Jurisdiction continues to extend to ‘all Comanche Treaty lands over which the Comanche Nation retains jurisdiction.” This is to include reservation lands established through the 1867 Medicine Lodge Treaty to the extent the reservation hasn’t been disestablished.

A perspective of the broken treaties and unilateral actions in the Jerome Agreement of 1892 and Act of 1900 and the Comanche counsel’s view of how its enaction play out against the legal principles established in the McGirt ruling is what Montgomery argues is an invaluable addition to the hearing.

There is no record of when the motion will be ruled upon.

There are four other cases filed in Comanche County District Court seeking similar relief based from of the McGirt ruling.

Written by Scott Rains:

Written by Scott Rains: