Image of Jack Thorp speaking at lectern

Thorp: SCOTUS ruling could increase federal caseload by up to 30,000

July 12, 2020 – District Attorney Jack Thorp said the United States Eastern District could see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 cases impacted by a recent United States Supreme Court decision to return much of Oklahoma to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

In a Ft. Smith Times Record article published on Sunday about the Goingsnake Massacre of 1872, Thorp said the SCOTUS ruling will require procedures similar to the debacle that led to what’s been called the largest non-military gunfight in the history of the Old West.

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Photo courtesy: Brandon Goldsmith

The bloody battle took place in what is now Adair County, after a trial involving Zeke Proctor, a Cherokee tribal member who attempted to shoot a non-tribal citizen but killed tribal member Polly Beck instead.

Because the intended victim was not a tribal member, Proctor was tried in state court. A posse made up of marshals and Beck’s family members sat in the courtroom through the trial, prepared to arrest Proctor on federal charges if he was acquitted.

The courtroom erupted in gunfire in the middle of proceedings, killing 10 members of the Beck posse and three Cherokee tribal members and wounding 11 others (including Proctor).

Thorp said under the procedures prompted by the SCOTUS decision, the Adair County trial would never have taken place. He said the state will only try cases involving non-Native American defendants and plaintiffs, which he estimates will increase the Eastern District of Oklahoma’s load by up to 30,000 cases.

Read the Ft. Smith Times Record article about the Goingsnake Massacre.

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