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Murphy v. Royal

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

November 9, 2017

PATRICK DWAYNE MURPHY, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
TERRY ROYAL Warden, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Respondent-Appellee. MUSCOGEE (CREEK) NATION; SEMINOLE NATION OF OKLAHOMA; KEETOOWAH BAND OF CHEROKEE INDIANS, Amici Curiae.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA (D.C. Nos. 6:03-CV-00443-RAW-KEW and 6:12-CV-00191-RAW-KEW)

          Patti Palmer Ghezzi, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Randy A. Bauman and Michael Lieberman, Assistant Federal Public Defenders, with her on the briefs), Office of the Federal Public Defender, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, appearing for Appellant.

          Jennifer L. Crabb, Assistant Attorney General (E. Scott Pruitt, Attorney General, and Jared B. Haines, Assistant Attorney General, with her on the brief), Office of the Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, appearing for Appellee.

          David A. Giampetroni, Kanji & Katzen, PLLC, Ann Arbor, Michigan (Kevin Dellinger, Attorney General, and Lindsay Dowell, Assistant Attorney General, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Okmulgee, Oklahoma; D. Michael McBride III, Attorney General, and Christina Vaughn, Assistant Attorney General, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Crowe & Dunlevy, Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Philip H. Tinker and Riyaz A. Kanji, Kanji & Katzen, Ann Arbor, Michigan, with him on the briefs), appearing for amici Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

          Klint A. Cowan, Fellers, Snider, Blankenship, Bailey & Tippens, P.C., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, appearing for amicus United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma.

          Before TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, MATHESON, and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges.

         ORDER

         These matters are before the court on the respondent's Petition for Panel Rehearing or Rehearing En Banc. We also have responses from the petitioner and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, in addition to amici curiae briefs from the United States and The Muscogee (Creek) Nation. We also have several motions pending seeking to file additional amici curiae briefs.

         Upon consideration, the request for panel rehearing is denied by the original panel members. For clarification, however, the panel has decided, sua sponte, to amend the original decision at pages 49-50. A copy of the amended decision is attached to this order, and the clerk is directed to reissue the opinion nunc pro tunc to the original filing date of August 8, 2017. In addition, Chief Judge Tymkovich has filed a concurrence to the denial of rehearing, and that concurrence is likewise attached.

         The Petition, the responses, the amici filings and the amended opinion were also circulated to all the judges of the court in regular active service who are not recused. See Fed. R. App. P. 35(a). As no judge on the original panel or the en banc court requested that a poll be called the request for en banc review is denied.

         Finally, the motions filed by the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, the Oklahoma Municipal League, and the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association, et al, seeking leave to file amici curiae briefs are granted. Those briefs will be shown filed as of the date of this order.

          TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, concurring in the denial of rehearing en banc.

         En banc review is not appropriate when, as here, a panel opinion faithfully applies Supreme Court precedent. An en banc court would necessarily reach the same result, since Supreme Court precedent precludes any other outcome. I write only to suggest this case might benefit from further attention by the Supreme Court.

         As the panel opinion explains, the three-part framework of Solem v. Bartlett, 465 U.S. 463 (1984), governs evaluating whether Congress has disestablished an Indian reservation. But strictly applying Solem's three-part framework in this context, which strongly suggests de facto disestablishment, evokes "the thud of square pegs being pounded into round holes." Parents Involved in Cmty. Sch. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 426 F.3d 1162, 1193 (9th Cir. 2005) (Kozinski, J., concurring), rev'd and remanded, 551 U.S. 701 (2007), and vacated, 498 F.3d 1059 (9th Cir. 2007).

         In 1893, Congress created the Dawes Commission to negotiate with the Creek Nation for the express purpose of extinguishing national title to lands held by the Creek Nation, preferably through allotment. Act of Mar. 3, 1893, § 16, 27 Stat. 212 at 645. The Creek Nation refused to negotiate, so Congress began imposing restrictions. Over the following five years, Congress destroyed the Creek legal system and threatened to terminate Creek land ownership unless the tribe agreed to allotment. Faced with this threat, the Creek Nation agreed to allotment in 1901. Most land owned by the Creek Nation was then allotted to individual members of the tribe. Murphy v. Royal, 866 F.3d 1164, 1201-02 (10th Cir. 2017).

         The parties hotly dispute the inferences to be drawn from the history of the Creek Nation. I am not without sympathy for Oklahoma's argument that Congress's series of actions here effectively constitute disestablishment, but the panel properly rejected that argument: Solem is clear that "[o]nce a block of land is set aside for an Indian Reservation and no matter what happens to the title of individual plots within the area, the entire block retains its reservation status until Congress explicitly indicates otherwise." 465 U.S. at 470 (emphasis added); see also Murphy, 866 F.3d at 1219 (explaining that allotment alone cannot terminate a reservation under Supreme Court precedent).

         Supreme Court precedent thus requires that evidence of intent to disestablish be "unequivocal[]." Nebraska v. Parker, 136 S.Ct. 1072, 1080-81 (2016). History, however, is not always well suited to provide the unequivocal evidence of disestablishment that Solem requires. Sometimes history is ambiguous, making it impossible to decide between competing narratives. Historians have been debating the Fall of Rome for millennia. Sometimes there will be unequivocal evidence one way or another. But sometimes not. When confronted with contemporaneous history that is far from unequivocal, Solem gives the edge to the tribes.

         Solem itself recognized that "[w]here non-Indian settlers flooded into the opened portion of a reservation and the area has long since lost its Indian character . . . de facto, if not de jure, diminishment may have occurred." 465 U.S. at 471. But, the Solem Court continued, this recognition only extends so far: "When both an act and its legislative history fail to provide substantial and compelling evidence of a congressional intention to diminish Indian lands, we are bound by our traditional solicitude for the Indian tribes to rule that diminishment did not take place and that the old reservation boundaries survived the opening." Id. at 472. And Parker confirmed this approach. See Murphy, 866 F.3d at 1198 (discussing how Parker illustrates the significance Solem places in statutory text, even in the face of strong subsequent demographic evidence).

         This case may present the high-water mark of de facto disestablishment: the boundaries of the Creek Reservation outlined by the panel opinion encompass a substantial non-Indian population, including much of the city of Tulsa; and Oklahoma claims the decision will have dramatic consequences for taxation, regulation, and law enforcement. The panel faithfully applied Supreme Court precedent holding that such "demographic evidence [cannot] overcome the absence of statutory text disestablishing the Creek Reservation." Murphy, 866 F.3d at 1232. But this may be the rare case where the Supreme Court wishes to enhance Steps Two and Three of Solem if it can be persuaded that the square peg of Solem is ill suited for the round hole of Oklahoma statehood. As Justice Cardozo wrote, "[e]xtraordinary situations may not wisely or fairly be subjected to tests or regulations that are fitting for the commonplace or normal." Pokora v. Wabash Ry. Co., 292 U.S. 98, 105-06 (1934).

         In sum, this challenging and interesting case makes a good candidate for Supreme Court review.

          MATHESON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. BACKGROUND ........................................................................................................... 2

         A. Factual History .......................................................................................................... 3

         B. Procedural History ..................................................................................................... 5

         1. Trial ....................................................................................................................... 5

         2. Direct appeal ......................................................................................................... 6

         3. First Application for State Post-Conviction Relief ............................................... 6

         4. Filing of First Application for Federal Habeas Relief .......................................... 7

         5. Second Application for State Post-Conviction Relief .......................................... 8

         a. Evidentiary hearing ................................................................................... 9

         b. Appeal to the OCCA ............................................................................... 11

         c. Atkins trial and appeal ............................................................................. 14

         6. Federal District Court Proceedings on First Federal Habeas Application .......... 14

         7. First Appeal to the Tenth Circuit (No. 07-7068) ................................................ 16

         8. Second Application for Federal Habeas Relief ................................................... 16

         9. This Consolidated Appeal ................................................................................... 16

         II. LEGAL BACKGROUND ........................................................................................... 17

         A. Standard of Review ................................................................................................. 17

         1. The Parties' Dispute ............................................................................................ 18

         2. The AEDPA Standard ......................................................................................... 19

         a. Overview ................................................................................................. 20

         b. The "contrary to" clause .......................................................................... 21

         B. Indian Country Jurisdiction ..................................................................................... 23

         1. Reservations ........................................................................................................ 23

         2. The Major Crimes Act ........................................................................................ 24

         3. Indian Country .................................................................................................... 27

         4. Reservation Disestablishment and Diminishment .............................................. 29

         a. Presumption against disestablishment and diminishment ........................ 30

         b. The policy of allotment ........................................................................... 32

         c. Solem factors ........................................................................................... 34

         III. DISCUSSION ............................................................................................................. 37

         A. Clearly Established Federal Law ............................................................................. 37

         1. Solem-Clearly Established Law in 2005 .......................................................... 38

         2. The State's Arguments ........................................................................................ 40

         B. The OCCA Decision-Contrary to Clearly Established Federal Law .................... 41

         1. The OCCA's Merits Decision ............................................................................. 42

         2. The OCCA's Decision Was Contrary to Solem .................................................. 46

         a. No citation to Solem ................................................................................ 46

         b. Failure to apply Solem ............................................................................. 47

         c. The State's arguments ............................................................................. 49

         C. Exclusive Federal Jurisdiction ................................................................................. 51

         1. Additional Legal Background ............................................................................. 53

         a. Supreme Court authority ......................................................................... 53

         b. Tenth Circuit authority ............................................................................ 56

         2. Additional Factual Background-Creek Nation History .................................... 58

         a. Original homeland and forced relocation ................................................. 59

         b. Nineteenth century diminishment ............................................................ 60

         c. 1867 Constitution and government .......................................................... 61

         d. Early congressional regulation of modern-day Oklahoma ....................... 62

         e. The push for allotment ............................................................................. 62

         f. Allotment and aftermath .......................................................................... 64

         g. Creation of Oklahoma ............................................................................. 66

         h. Away from allotment ............................................................................... 66

         i. Public Law 280 ........................................................................................ 67

         j. A new Creek Constitution ....................................................................... 68

         k. Our decision in Indian Country, U.S.A. . .................................................. 69

         3. Applying Solem ................................................................................................... 70

         a. Step One: Statutory Text ......................................................................... 70

         i. The statutes .......................................................................................... 73

         1) Act of March 3, 1893, ch. 209, 27 Stat. 612 ("1893 Act") .............. 73

         2) Act of June 10, 1896, ch. 398, 29 Stat. 321 ("1896 Act") ............... 75

         3) Act of June 7, 1897, ch. 3, 30 Stat. 62 ("1897 Act") ....................... 75

         4) "Curtis Act, " ch. 517, 30 Stat. 495 (June 28, 1898) ......................... 76

         5) "Original Allotment Agreement, " ch. 676, 31 Stat. 861 (March 1, 1901) ........................ 77

         a) Allotment .................................................................................... 77

         b) Town sites ................................................................................... 80

         c) Lands reserved for tribal purposes .............................................. 81

         d) Future governance ....................................................................... 81

         6) "Supplemental Allotment Agreement, " ch. 1323, 32 Stat. 500 (June 30, 1902) ...................... 84

         7) "Five Tribes Act, " ch. 1876, 34 Stat. 137, April 26, 1906 ............... 85

         8) "Oklahoma Enabling Act, " ch. 3335, 34 Stat. 267 (June 16, 1906) . 89

         ii. Analysis ........................... 90

         1) No hallmarks of disestablishment or diminishment ......................... 91

         2) Signs Congress continued to recognize the Reservation .................. 95

         3) The State's title and governance arguments .................................... 97

         a) Title ............................................................................................ 98

         b) Governance ................................................................................. 99

         b. Step Two: Contemporary Historical Evidence ....................................... 101

         i. The State's evidence ........................................................................... 103

         1) 1892 Senate debate ........................................................................ 104

         2) 1894 Senate committee report ....................................................... 105

         3) Other sources ................................................................................ 107

         ii. Mr. Murphy's and the Creek Nation's evidence ................................. 108

         1) 1894 Dawes Commission records .................................................. 108

         2) 1895 Dawes letter .......................................................................... 108

         3) 1900 Attorney General opinion ..................................................... 109

         4) Post-allotment evidence ................................................................ 110

         iii. Analysis ............................................................................................. 112

         c. Step Three: Later History ..................................................................... 113

         i. Treatment of the area .......................................................................... 114

         1) Congress ....................................................................................... 114

         2) Executive ...................................................................................... 117

         3) Federal courts ................................................................................ 118

         4) Oklahoma ...................................................................................... 120

         5) Creek Nation ................................................................................. 123

         ii. Demographics .................................................................................... 124

         iii. Step-three concluding comment ......................................................... 125

         IV. CONCLUSION ......................................................................................................... 126

         Patrick Dwayne Murphy asserts he was tried in the wrong court. He challenges the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma state court in which he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He contends he should have been tried in federal court because he is an Indian and the offense occurred in Indian country. We agree and remand to the district court to issue a writ of habeas corpus vacating his conviction and sentence.

         The question of whether the state court had jurisdiction is straightforward but reaching an answer is not. We must navigate the law of (1) federal habeas corpus review of state court decisions, (2) Indian country jurisdiction generally, (3) Indian reservations specifically, and (4) how a reservation can be disestablished or diminished. Our discussion on each of these topics reaches the following conclusions.

         First, we assume that a federal habeas court must give deference to a state court's determination that it had jurisdiction. Nonetheless, in this case, the Oklahoma court applied a rule that was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court law. We must apply the correct law.

         Second, when an Indian is charged with committing a murder in Indian country, he or she must be tried in federal court. Mr. Murphy is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Because the homicide charged against him was committed in Indian country, the Oklahoma state courts lacked jurisdiction to try him.

         Third, Congress has defined Indian country broadly to include three categories of areas: (a) Indian reservations, (b) dependent Indian communities, and (c) Indian allotments. See 18 U.S.C. § 1151. The reservation clause concerns us here. All land within the borders of an Indian reservation-regardless of whether the tribe, individual Indians, or non-Indians hold title to a given tract of land-is Indian country unless Congress has disestablished the reservation or diminished its borders.

         Fourth, only Congress may disestablish or diminish an Indian reservation. Applying the Supreme Court's test to determine whether Congress has done so as to the Creek Reservation, we conclude it has not.

         Mr. Murphy and the State agree that the offense in this case occurred within the Creek Reservation if Congress has not disestablished it. We conclude the Reservation remains intact and therefore the crime was committed in Indian country. Mr. Murphy, a Creek citizen, should have been charged and tried in federal court.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         We begin with the facts of the crime as presented by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ("OCCA").[2] We then discuss the procedural journey Mr. Murphy's case has traveled.

         A. Factual History

         In August 1999, Mr. Murphy lived with Patsy Jacobs. Murphy v. State, 47 P.3d 876, 879 (Okla. Crim. App. 2002). Ms. Jacobs was previously in a relationship with the victim in this case, George Jacobs, and had a child with him, George, Jr. Id. at 879-80. Mr. Murphy had an argument with her about Mr. Jacobs and said he was "going to get" Mr. Jacobs and his family. Id. at 879.

         On August 28, 1999, Mr. Jacobs spent the day drinking with his cousin, Mark Sumka. Id. Around 9:30 p.m., Mr. Sumka was driving to a bar in Henryetta, Oklahoma, with Mr. Jacobs passed out in the back seat. Id. Mr. Murphy was driving on the same road in the opposite direction with two passengers-Billy Long and Kevin King. Id. After the cars passed each other, they stopped. Id. Mr. Murphy backed up and told Mr. Sumka to turn off the car, but Mr. Sumka drove off. Id.

         Mr. Murphy and his passengers pursued and forced Mr. Sumka off Vernon Road, which runs through an area that is "remarkably rural [and] heavily treed . . . without any sort of improvement . . . except perhaps a rickety barbed wire fence." Murphy v. State, 124 P.3d 1198, 1206 (Okla. Crim. App. 2005); see also 47 P.3d at 879.

         Mr. Murphy exited the car and confronted Mr. Sumka. 47 P.3d at 879. Mr. Long and Mr. King began hitting Mr. Jacobs. Id. at 880. Mr. Murphy approached Mr. Jacobs, trading places with Mr. Long, who went over and hit Mr. Sumka. Id. at 880. Mr. Sumka briefly ran off but came back about five minutes later. Id.

         When he did, he saw Mr. Murphy throw a folding knife into the woods, and he saw Mr. Jacobs lying in a ditch along the road, barely breathing. Id. Mr. Murphy and his companions threatened to kill Mr. Sumka and his family if he said anything, and Mr. King struck Mr. Sumka in the jaw. Id.

         Following Mr. Murphy's instructions, Mr. Sumka left the scene with the other men. Id. During the car ride away, they told Mr. Sumka they had cut Mr. Jacobs's throat and chest and had severed his genitals. Id. The group later went to Mr. King's home, where Mr. Jacobs's son, George, Jr., was staying, in an apparent attempt to kill him. Id. Mr. King's mother intervened and "thwarted [their] plan." Id. Mr. King went inside, and the rest of the group left. Id.

         A passerby found Mr. Jacobs in the ditch with his face bloodied and slashes across his chest and stomach. Id. His genitals had been cut off and his throat slit. Id. According to a state criminalist, Mr. Jacobs had been dragged off the road after his genitals were severed. Id. His neck and chest had been cut on the side of the road, where he bled to death over the course of four to twelve minutes, though it may have taken longer. Id.

         After Mr. Murphy returned home and confessed to Ms. Jacobs, he was arrested. Id. The State of Oklahoma charged him with Mr. Jacobs's murder and sought the death penalty.

         B. Procedural History

         A jury convicted Mr. Murphy of murder in Oklahoma state court and imposed the death penalty. His appeal and post-conviction proceedings have since moved through the Oklahoma and federal courts as recounted below.

         Although the overall history of Mr. Murphy's case is complex, the history of the jurisdictional claim we resolve here can be succinctly summarized. After Mr. Murphy's conviction and death sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, he applied for state post-conviction relief in 2004, arguing the Oklahoma state courts had lacked jurisdiction to try him. The OCCA ordered an evidentiary hearing. Following the hearing, the state district court concluded Oklahoma's jurisdiction was proper because the crime did not occur in Indian country. The OCCA affirmed that conclusion in 2005. Mr. Murphy then sought federal habeas relief, but the federal district court denied relief in 2007. Mr. Murphy now appeals.

         In the interest of thoroughness, and because Mr. Murphy's case has until now proceeded in a disjointed fashion, we provide a complete procedural history below.

         1. Trial

         In 2000, a jury in McIntosh County, Oklahoma, convicted Mr. Murphy of first degree murder under Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.7(A) (1999). In the penalty phase, the jury found aggravating circumstances supported the death penalty. Murphy, 47 P.3d at 879. In accordance with the jury's verdict, the trial court imposed a death sentence. Id.

         2. Direct appeal

         Mr. Murphy raised a variety of trial issues in a direct appeal to the OCCA. On May 22, 2002, the OCCA affirmed his conviction. Id. at 888. The court also performed a statutorily mandated sentencing review in which the court considered the aggravating circumstances in light of the mitigating evidence, including Mr. Murphy's "mild mental retardation, " and concluded his death sentence was "factually substantiated and appropriate." Id. at 887-88.[3]

         3. First Application for State Post-Conviction Relief

         On February 7, 2002, while his direct appeal was pending in the OCCA, Mr. Murphy filed his first application for state post-conviction relief. See Murphy v. State, 54 P.3d 556, 560 (Okla. Crim. App. 2002). He asked that his application be held in abeyance, id. at 566, until the Supreme Court decided its then-pending case of Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), which addressed whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of "mentally retarded persons, " id. at 306.

         On June 20, 2002, about a month after the OCCA affirmed on direct appeal, the Supreme Court held in Atkins that the Eighth Amendment "places a substantive restriction on the State's power to take the life of a mentally retarded offender." Id. at 321 (quotations omitted). Atkins "[left] to the States the task of developing appropriate ways to enforce the constitutional restriction." Id. at 317 (brackets and quotations omitted).

          On September 4, 2002, the OCCA denied relief on all of the issues Mr. Murphy had raised in his first application for state post-conviction relief except his Atkins claim. 54 P.3d at 570. The OCCA used Mr. Murphy's case to adopt new, post-Atkins procedures to shield "mentally retarded" persons from execution. See id. at 567-69. These procedures, the OCCA explained, would govern "until such time" as the Oklahoma legislature enacted an alternative framework. Id. at 568. The OCCA remanded to the state district court "for an evidentiary hearing on the sole issue of [Mr. Murphy's] claim of mental retardation in accordance with" the OCCA's newly announced procedures. Id. at 570.

         On remand, the state district court concluded Mr. Murphy "had not raised sufficient evidence to create a fact question on the issue of mental retardation." Murphy v. State, 66 P.3d 456, 458 (Okla. Crim. App. 2003). On March 21, 2003, the OCCA ruled this conclusion was "not clearly erroneous" and affirmed Mr. Murphy's death sentence. Id. at 458, 461.

         4. Filing of First Application for Federal Habeas Relief

         On March 5, 2004, Mr. Murphy filed a federal habeas application under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 asserting 13 grounds for relief.

         On August 30, 2004, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma concluded Mr. Murphy's application contained some claims that had not been exhausted in Oklahoma state court. The federal district court directed Mr. Murphy to drop his unexhausted claims.

         On September 10, 2004, Mr. Murphy did so by filing an amended application containing eight claims, all of which were exhausted. His amended application remained pending in the federal district court while he pursued additional relief in state court.[4]

         5. Second Application for State Post-Conviction Relief

         On March 29, 2004-shortly after he filed his original federal habeas application-Mr. Murphy returned to state court and filed a second application for post-conviction relief to exhaust claims he had dropped from his federal habeas application. His second application for state post-conviction relief alleged:

1. Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction because the Major Crimes Act gives the federal government exclusive jurisdiction to prosecute murders committed by Indians in Indian country.[5]
2. The OCCA's earlier denial of a jury trial on the issue of his "mental retardation" had violated his constitutional rights.
3. Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol violated the Eighth Amendment.

See Murphy, 124 P.3d at 1200, 1208-09. The OCCA ordered an evidentiary hearing on the jurisdictional claim. Id. at 1199.[6]

         a. Evidentiary hearing

         The state district court held a one-day evidentiary hearing. Id. at 1201. Mr. Murphy argued Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction because the crime occurred in Indian country and 18 U.S.C. § 1153 provides for exclusive federal jurisdiction over murders committed by Indians in Indian country.[7] The parties agreed that Mr. Murphy and Mr. Jacobs, both members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, were Indians, but they disputed whether the crime occurred in Indian country, a term defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1151:

[T]he term "Indian country" . . . means
(a) all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent, and, including rights-of-way running through the reservation,
(b) all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States whether within the original or subsequently acquired territory thereof, and whether within or without the limits of a state, and
(c) all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished, including rights-of-way running through the same.

18 U.S.C. § 1151 (paragraph breaks added). An area qualifies as Indian country if it fits within any of these three categories. Mr. Murphy argued the crime occurred in Indian country under all three categories.[8]

         In December 2004, the state district court concluded state jurisdiction was proper because the crime had occurred on state land. See 124 P.3d at 1200, 1202. The court, however, addressed only one of Mr. Murphy's three theories. Id. at 1207. It concluded the land was not an Indian allotment under § 1151(c), but it failed to address whether the location was (a) part of the Creek Reservation or (b) part of a dependent Indian community. See id. (noting the state district court failed to address these questions although the OCCA had "clearly asked" it to do so). Although the state district court viewed these matters as outside the scope of the evidentiary hearing, it allowed Mr. Murphy to make an offer of proof on his other two theories. Id.[9] The court ultimately ruled the State's exercise of criminal jurisdiction was proper and denied relief. Id. at 1202.

         b. Appeal to the OCCA

         Mr. Murphy appealed to the OCCA. On December 7, 2005, the OCCA denied relief on his jurisdictional and Eighth Amendment claims but granted limited relief on the Atkins claim. See id. at 1209.

         On the jurisdictional issue, the OCCA found the record did not support some of the state district court's determinations, but it affirmed the ultimate determination that Oklahoma's jurisdiction was proper. Id. at 1201-08. The OCCA accepted the state district court's findings regarding where the crime unfolded, but it rejected the court's conclusion that Oklahoma owned the road and the ditch abutting it. Id. at 1202. Rather, the OCCA concluded, Oklahoma's "interest in the area in question is in the nature of an easement or right-of way." Id. The Creek Nation had long owned the land in question when, under a statute enacted in 1902, Oklahoma received the right to build a public highway. Id. at 1203. Tracing the history of the specific tract where the crime occurred, the OCCA concluded it had passed in the early twentieth century from the Creek Nation to Lizzie Smith, a member of the Creek Nation, and that all interest in the land-except for a restricted 1/12 mineral interest-had since been conveyed to non-Indians. See id. at 1204-06. The OCCA concluded this Indian interest was insufficient to qualify the land as an Indian allotment under § 1151(c): "A fractional interest in an unobservable mineral interest is insufficient contact with the situs in question to deprive the State of Oklahoma of criminal jurisdiction." Id. at 1206.[10]

         The OCCA criticized the state district court for not addressing whether the crime was committed within the Creek Reservation or within a dependent Indian community, but it concluded the error was harmless because Mr. Murphy had been afforded a chance "to make an extended offer of proof." Id. at 1207. The OCCA said that the evidence, had it been admitted, was "insufficient" to show "that the tract in question qualifies as a reservation or dependent Indian community." Id.

         With respect to the reservation theory, the OCCA acknowledged our decision in Indian Country, U.S.A., Inc. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Tax Commission, 829 F.2d 967 (10th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 487 U.S. 1218 (1988), where we recognized the Creek Reservation still exists but reserved the question whether its 1866 boundaries remain intact, 829 F.2d at 975-76. See 124 P.3d at 1207-08 (discussing Indian Country, U.S.A.). The OCCA stated: "If the federal courts remain undecided on this particular issue, we refuse to step in and make such a finding here." Id. at 1208.[11]

         As for the two non-jurisdictional issues Mr. Murphy raised in his second post-conviction application, the OCCA granted limited relief on one and denied relief on the other. First, it reversed course on the Atkins issue and found Mr. Murphy had provided sufficient evidence to create a factual question for a jury on his "mental retardation claim." Id. It therefore ordered the case remanded. Id. Second, the OCCA ruled Mr. Murphy had waived his Eighth Amendment challenge to Oklahoma's lethal injection protocol by failing to raise it earlier. Id. at 1209.

         In summary, the OCCA rejected the jurisdictional challenge and the Eighth Amendment claim, but it remanded for a jury trial on Mr. Murphy's Atkins claim.[12]

         c. Atkins trial and appeal

         Following a September 2009 trial in the state district court, a jury in McIntosh County rejected Mr. Murphy's claim of "mental retardation." Murphy v. State, 281 P.3d 1283, 1287 (Okla. Crim. App. 2012) (discussing jury trial). But the trial judge declared a mistrial based on an error of state law and reset the case for a new trial. Id.[13]

         Before the re-trial, the State moved to terminate further proceedings. A state statute had supplanted the OCCA's Atkins procedures and provided that no defendant who received an intelligence quotient ("I.Q.") score of 76 or above could "be considered mentally retarded." Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 701.10b(C); see also 281 P.3d at 1287-89. Because Mr. Murphy had received an I.Q. score of 80 on one test and 82 on another, the trial court granted the State's motion and terminated proceedings on January 27, 2011. 281 P.3d at 1288.

         Mr. Murphy appealed and raised four propositions of error to the OCCA. Id. at 1287. On April 5, 2012, the OCCA ruled the district court had properly relied on the new state law. Id. at 1289. The OCCA rejected all of Mr. Murphy's claims, thus concluding proceedings on the second post-conviction application. Id. at 1294.

         6. Federal District Court Proceedings on First Federal Habeas Application

         On December 28, 2005, after the OCCA rejected his jurisdictional and Eighth Amendment claims but before the conclusion of the Atkins proceedings, Mr. Murphy moved to amend his federal habeas application. The district court granted the motion and allowed Mr. Murphy to add two newly exhausted claims: (1) the challenge to Oklahoma's jurisdiction, and (2) the Eighth Amendment lethal-injection challenge. These two claims were added to Mr. Murphy's eight previously exhausted federal claims, which were still pending.

         On August 1, 2007, the district court entered an opinion and order denying all ten claims in Mr. Murphy's habeas application. Murphy v. Sirmons, 497 F.Supp.2d 1257, 1294-95 (E.D. Okla. 2007).

         On the jurisdictional claim, Mr. Murphy argued the crime had occurred in Indian country under just two theories: (1) the land was part of the Creek Reservation under § 1151(a) and (2) the land was an Indian allotment under § 1151(c). Id. at 1288. Applying the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), the district court ruled that the OCCA's decisions against Mr. Murphy on these theories were neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. See 497 F.Supp.2d at 1286-92.

         The district court rejected Mr. Murphy's other claims but granted him three certificates of appealability ("COAs")[14] to challenge his counsel's effectiveness, one of the death-eligibility aggravating circumstances, and the trial court's failure to define life without parole for the jury.

         7. First Appeal to the Tenth Circuit (No. 07-7068)

         Mr. Murphy appealed to this court. On November 16, 2007, we abated the appeal to await resolution of Mr. Murphy's then-pending Atkins claim in Oklahoma state court.

         8. Second Application for Federal Habeas Relief

         On April 26, 2012, following the OCCA's final denial of his Atkins claim, Mr. Murphy filed a second § 2254 application in the Eastern District of Oklahoma that challenged the OCCA's resolution of the Atkins issue.[15] The district court denied relief. Murphy v. Trammell, No. CIV-12-191-RAW-KEW, 2015 WL 2094548, at *13 (E.D. Okla. May 5, 2015) (unpublished).

         9. This Consolidated Appeal

         Mr. Murphy sought to appeal from the district court's denial of relief on his second § 2254 habeas application. We consolidated that appeal (No. 15-7041) with his appeal from the denial of his first habeas application (No. 07-7068) to form this case.

         Mr. Murphy raises eight issues. Because he obtained COAs for each one, [16] our jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(a), (c)(1)(A).

         As to one of the issues-whether Oklahoma or the federal government had jurisdiction over the murder case-we granted the motion of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma to file a joint amici brief.[17] We likewise permitted the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma to file an amicus brief. The Tribes also participated at oral argument.

         II. LEGAL BACKGROUND

         We conclude the crime occurred on the Creek Reservation and therefore the Oklahoma courts lacked jurisdiction. This section addresses the law applicable to the jurisdictional issue. We begin with (A) our standard of review and then address (B) the substantive law of Indian country jurisdiction.

         A. Standard of Review

         The parties disagree over the standard of review that should apply to Mr. Murphy's jurisdictional claim. The State contends AEDPA's deferential standard should apply. Mr. Murphy disagrees and argues we should review his claim de novo. We begin by discussing this disagreement, but we choose not to resolve it because Mr. Murphy prevails even under AEDPA review. Because we assume the AEDPA standard applies, we then go on to describe it.

         1. The Parties' Dispute

         As we discuss in greater detail below, AEDPA generally requires federal habeas courts to defer to state court decisions. Mr. Murphy argues AEDPA does not apply when, as here, a state court denies a defendant's challenge to the state court's subject matter jurisdiction. AEDPA deference, he maintains, "presupposes" the state court had jurisdiction to decide a given claim in the first place. Aplt. Br. at 26. Because the question of Indian country jurisdiction implicates tribal and federal sovereignty interests, he also contends that federal courts, unconstrained by AEDPA, must make the final determination over the jurisdictional issue. And he argues that applying AEDPA to jurisdictional claims would pose separation-of-powers and other constitutional problems.

         The State responds that nothing in AEDPA says subject matter jurisdiction claims should be reviewed de novo. It notes Mr. Murphy has failed to cite a case in support of his view that AEDPA does not apply to jurisdictional questions. It argues Mr. Murphy has waived any argument against AEDPA's application because he supported the district court's application of AEDPA below. The State also disputes his constitutional arguments.

         We need not decide whether this issue is waivable, whether Mr. Murphy has waived it here, or even whether AEDPA is the appropriate standard. We choose to assume without deciding that AEDPA applies.

         We took this approach in Magnan v. Trammell, 719 F.3d 1159 (10th Cir. 2013). Both sides agree Magnan left open the question of whether AEDPA applies to Indian country jurisdictional claims. Magnan concerned an Indian defendant whom an Oklahoma state court had sentenced to death. Id. at 1160-61. The defendant challenged the state court's jurisdiction. Id. at 1163. We assumed without deciding that AEDPA applied and concluded that, even under AEDPA's deferential standard, the OCCA had erred in concluding Oklahoma had jurisdiction over the case. Id. at 1160-61, 1164.[18] We held the crime occurred in Indian country, making jurisdiction exclusively federal. We ordered Mr. Magnan released from state custody without resolving the "difficult question" of whether AEDPA constrains federal court review of a state court's jurisdictional ruling regarding Indian country. Id. at 1164, 1176-77.[19] As in Magnan, we can assume without deciding that AEDPA applies because Mr. Murphy is entitled to relief even under that formidable standard of review.

         2. The AEDPA Standard

         We first discuss AEDPA's general framework and then focus on the statute's "contrary to" clause because that provision guides our analysis.

         a. Overview

         "AEDPA erects a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in state court." Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013). When a state court adjudicates a claim on the merits, AEDPA prohibits federal courts from granting ...


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