Murder suspects file motions to have cases dismissed
By Ken Childers
Two murder suspects have filed motions in Okfuskee County Court to have their cases dismissed on grounds that the State of Oklahoma does not have jurisdiction over them.
Arson and double-murder suspect Joshua Green and Tommy Gouge, who allegedly bludgeoned his wife to death on Valentine’s Day, filed motions of dismissal on July 13. Both motions will be considered on Sept. 15, according to court records.
The motions were filed on behalf of Green and Gouge by their attorney Curt Allen of Okmulgee, who represents both suspects through the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.
Both men claim that because the Supreme Court ruled on July 9 that much of eastern Oklahoma, including all of Okfuskee County, is an Indian reservation, they are subject to federal jurisdiction. In the ruling, the court said the state does not have authority to pursue criminal charges against Native Americans who commit crimes within the boundaries of the reservation.
Green is accused of killing 57-year-old Tina Burleigh and her 22-year-old son, Tim Rush, then setting fire to their Okemah-area house on Feb. 5. Green also allegedly stole Burleigh’s car, which authorities later found wrecked and abandoned in rural Okfuskee County. He was apprehended in Clearview after leading multiple agencies on a lengthy manhunt.
Green was bound over for trial on June 18, but a trial date has not been set. He has entered a plea of not guilty to all charges, which include two counts of murder in the first degree-deliberate attempt and one count of first-degree arson.
According to an affidavit, Gouge called the Okemah Police Department on Feb. 14 and said he needed an officer sent to his home in Clearview because he had killed his wife, Stephanie. He told the dispatcher he would be unarmed and waiting in the yard with his children.
Gouge was apprehended and transported to the Okfuskee County Jail, where he waived his miranda rights and agreed to speak with Sheriff Jim Rasmussen. According to the affidavit, Gouge said an argument over text messages involving another man escalated and Stephanie pulled a knife on him. Gouge said he disarmed his wife and stabbed her, then bludgeoned her to death with a bottle jack, a small hydraulic jack commonly used to lift vehicles, according to the affidavit. Gouge was bound over for trial on June 16, but a trial date has not been set. He was charged with murder in the first degree – deliberate attempt, to which he entered a plea of not guilty.
Additional fallout from court ruling
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said that since the Supreme Court ruling, his office has been “flooded” with requests from inmates to have their state convictions overturned, and he is seeking guidance from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
In a brief filed with the appeals court this week, Hunter wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court created numerous issues that could result in the release of inmates convicted of violent crimes.
“My team and I plan to challenge every single appeal that attempts to overturn longstanding convictions on historic tribal land,” Hunter said. “We are not questioning the Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt, but instead seeking to promote public safety by saying these convicted criminals waited too long to bring their claims. Also, we are asking the court to make clear that the state still has jurisdiction to punish non-Indians who victimize tribal citizens, which would provide the maximum possible protection to tribal members. In the meantime, we are asking the Court of Criminal Appeals to provide guidance on these cases and deny any requests by inmates attempting to get released from prison.”
Hunter is also asking the court to clarify how Indian status is to be proven, and to put the burden of proving Indian status on the defendant and that the location of the crime fell within the boundaries of a legal reservation.