Constitutional and legal battles involving the state of Oklahoma were the topic of the day when Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter came to town.
Hunter was the guest speaker at a Claremore Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He spoke first of an ongoing case currently before the United States Supreme Court.
Carpenter vs. Murphy
“We’re not really sure where that case is, other than it’s in the Supreme Court and they’re still looking at it,” he said. “We were sitting anxiously on the last day of the court’s session when they were reporting the last opinions waiting for the Murphy case to come down, and no opinion was issued.”
He said the case was argued over a year ago and no opinion has been issued as of yet. He said they’re hopeful they will
get an opinion out of the Supreme Court later this year or early next Spring.
“There’s been a lot of discussion and trepidation in this part of the state, I know, on the effects if that case if it goes the other way,” he said. “In the event that Murphy, and those supporting Murphy are successful—and I’m not sure they could have picked a worse defendant. He’s a confessed murderer, it just so happens he’s a member of the Creek Nation and that his crime occurred on historic Creek land. For whatever reason there’s an issue that was raised by a federal public defender on that case being outside the jurisdiction of the state.”
Previously, Hunter said state’s have had jurisdiction over crimes that occur on historic tribal lands.
“So this novel theory was raised by attorney’s representing Mr. Murphy that not just the Creek Reservation, because it applies to the other four civilized tribes, that those reservations were never disestablished during statehood,” he said. “We have argued this aggressively. No disrespect to those five sovereign nations. We felt like when Oklahoma became a state those reservations were disestablished.”
Hunter made clear that he thinks the civil consequences of this case are negligible.
“It’s not going to effect land titles, or how commerce occurs when you do business with tribes,” he said.
The criminal consequences, though, Hunter described as “mind-boggling.”
“Literally if this decision occurs the way Murphy’s lawyers want it to, there may be several thousand people in prison for violent crimes whose convictions would be visciated by the Surpreme Court’s decision. In other words, the Supreme Court could find that the state did have jurisdiction over several thousand crimes and violent offenders could be released,” he said.
Operation Velvet Fury
“There’s also a new investigation that was launched recently in Tulsa with respect to massage parlors. It turns out there is a lot of crime that emanates from massage parlors, in addition to prostitution,” he said. “So Operation Velvet Fury is addressing that... I feel like we’ve dealt a decisive blow to the sex industry in this part of the state. Unfortunately, it’s not just prostitution that emanates from these massage parlors—it’s also human trafficking and drug smuggling. So dealing with this in a way that’s proportional to the threat to public safety is how we approach this.”
He said this investigation is ongoing.
Strong message to drug dealers
On the subject of drug dealers, Hunter said, “If you’re selling poison to somebody and that has the potential to put them in the emergency room, or worse on a slab in a morgue, you committed a violent crime. This may sound extreme, but we made the decision to send a strong message to drug dealers. In Oklahoma you can charge somebody with first degree murder if as a consequence of them selling illicit drugs to someone that person overdoses and dies.”
He said two such cases have been filed in Oklahoma thus far.
“I want drug dealers to think twice about this being their line of business,” Hunter said.
Oklahoma’s opioid epidemic
Hunter provided an update to the ever-evolving legal battle being waged in Oklahoma’s opioid epidemic.
He said a commission dedicated to the issue recently came up with seven things they thought were important, from a policy standpoint, in helping the state get a handle on opioids.
“We now have controls over opioid prescribing. We’re going to move from paper prescription to e-prescriptions after the first of the year. The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics has a lot more control and over-site into prescription drugs coming into the state. From a policy standpoint I feel like we’ve looked at other states and really have best practices in place,” he said.
He said the next step, for his office, is holding companies accountable for oversupplying in Oklahoma.
“Of the 6,000 Oklahoma’s who died over the last 10 or 15 years we think there may be as many as 100,000 Oklahomans with a substance abuse disorder. Simply put, it’s a big mess. Our goal in the litigation was to hold these companies accountable for the mess they created.
Hunter said they identified three key players, Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, “in regards to oversupply, misrepresenting the addictive qualities of opioids and brainwashing doctors about it’s appropriateness for chronic pain.”