By Ray King

A member of the Cherokee Nation who pleaded guilty to capital murder to avoid the death penalty in 2005 has failed to convince the Arkansas Supreme Court that he was arrested and searched illegally, that his guilty plea was not knowingly entered, and that his attorney was ineffective.

Billy Wolfe also pleaded guilty to kidnapping and at the time of his conviction in Benton County, he lived within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. The crimes were committed in Arkansas and law enforcement officers in Oklahoma arrested Wolfe at his home and seized his truck.

Wolfe is currently in prison in Oklahoma and filed his appeal of his conviction in Jefferson County where the Department of Corrections is located. That appeal was rejected by Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis and Wolfe appealed to the State Supreme Court.

In his appeal, Wolfe contended that the State of Arkansas lacked the jurisdiction to convict him because he is a member of the Cherokee Nation and lived within its territory when the crimes were committed. He said jurisdiction for his crimes lay with the federal courts. He did not contend that the crimes were committed within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation and does not dispute they were committed in Benton County, Arkansas.

The Supreme Court said that challenge failed because a circuit court has jurisdiction over cases that occur in the county where it is located.

Wolfe also argued that he was arrested and searched illegally therefore, those issues should have been raised at trial. He also contended that when he entered the guilty plea, he thought he was pleading guilty to a sentence of life with the possibility of parole but instead the sentence was life without parole. The supreme court said when a person enters a plea, that is there trial and an appeal proceeding does not allow that person to retry their case.