The Oklahoma Supreme Court Thursday left in place a “stay” in the execution of lower court orders in the case of “Baby Veronica,” a young Cherokee girl. The ruling keeps Veronica in Oklahoma with Dusten Brown, her biological father, for now, while the appeals process in the ongoing custody battle runs its course.
According to reports, the sealed order provides minimal details about the decision or the court’s reasoning, and with both parties in the case and their attorneys subject to gag orders, those involved are limited in what information they can offer. What is known is that the order is dated September 12 and does not make an earlier Oklahoma Supreme Court stay permanent, which means the court could lift it before the appeals process is completed. It is not clear at this time how long that process could take.
Brown claims he was misled into giving up any parental rights and thought he was only agreeing to relinquishing custodial rights to the birth mother. According to the many lower court proceedings, the girl’s adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, arranged a private adoption with Veronica’s birth mother, and came to Oklahoma for her birth on September 15, 2009.
As Tulsa World reported, Brown challenged the adoption in the Capobianco’s home state of South Carolina. Two years later, the South Carolina courts eventually gave Brown custody. But the Capobiancos appealed, and their case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled this summer that South Carolina had misread the Indian Child Welfare Act—which, among other things, set limitations on the adoption of Native children by non-Natives—in granting custody to Brown. As a result of the decision, South Carolina had to reconsider its original custody decision.
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In July, the South Carolina courts did just that with the South Carolina Supreme Court giving the Capobiancos custody of Baby Veronica. Since then, two other district courts in Oklahoma have sided with the Capobiancos and ordered that Baby Veronica be sent to them.
But Brown has appealed both the district court decisions in Oklahoma and South Carolina to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, according to Tulsa World. On August 30, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an order temporarily blocking the Capobiancos from taking Veronica out of the state. Because Brown is in violation of the South Carolina order, he faces possible extradition to the state, where If convicted of custodial interference he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. His possible extradition hearing is currently scheduled for October 3.