Judge Stephen Kistler ruled on Tuesday against the motion to dismiss a felony murder case where Zach Smith, the defense attorney, argued it would fall under tribal jurisdiction.
Noah Montague has been charged with first-degree murder in Tulsa County after police alleged he sold drugs to Perkins resident Jamie Bear, who then overdosed.
In July 2020, the case was moved to Payne County because Bear, a Native woman, died in Perkins, not Tulsa.
Montague appeared in court Tuesday morning on the motion to dismiss hearing, where arguments were heard.
Smith argued that the fact that Bear died in Payne County does not allow the state to choose which county to prosecute in. Since the alleged heroin sale took place in Tulsa County, the case should be dismissed and the state has no jurisdiction to prosecute. Indian country, he argued.
“Every element of the crime happened in Tulsa County,” Smith told Kistler.
Smith said selling heroin is a problem, but where Bear died is separate from the conduct that allegedly caused his death.
Smith said the only thing that ties his client to this county is Bear’s death in Perkins. All other elements of the crime were in Tulsa County, he said.
The law he was referring to was – Okla. Stat. tit. 22, § 124 – which deals with jurisdiction for crimes committed in more than one county. In his motion to dismiss, he argued that this crime is not like a kidnapping that happened in one county and a subsequent assault happened in a neighboring county.
Attorney General Kenneth Towery argued that the key to charging Montague was Bear’s death. He also maintained that the elements of the crime were not just in Tulsa.
“It didn’t just happen in Tulsa,” Towery said. “It spanned several counties.”
He told the court the state had to prove that Bear died due to Montague selling heroin, which police say led her to overdose.
“I have to prove a death that occurred in this county,” he said.
Smith maintained the inquest took place in Tulsa, but Towery said Bear’s death was investigated in Perkins and the drugs found in her home were seized by local police.
Co-defendant Josiah Ramos has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Bear’s death.
Smith again argued that his client did not give Bear the heroin. Ramos purchased the heroin from Montague and used it with Bear once in Tulsa and then again in Payne County, Ramos testified during his preliminary hearing.
“Ramos is the one who gave it to him,” Smith told the court.
Kistler denied the motion to dismiss, saying, “I agree with the state.”
Montague will have a hearing on all pending motions on June 1.