OKLAHOMA CITY (WCSC/AP) - The Oklahoma Supreme Court has lifted the stay of an order keeping 4-year-old Veronica with her biological father, Dusten Brown, and from her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.
Oklahoma's highest court voted to lift the emergency stay issued by the Nowata County district court on Aug. 30, which kept Veronica in the state, according to court records. The vote was not unanimous, with Vice-Chief Justice John F. Reif and Justice Norma Gurich dissenting, and Steven W. Taylor abstaining. Chief Justice Tom Colbert concurred in part and dissented in part.
Their decision follows several days of mediation hearings between the two sides. No agreement was reached during those negotiations.
The move paves a way for Veronica to return to Charleston with the Capobiancos. The next steps in the transition process are unknown at this time.
The Capobiancos expressed relief at the court's decision. A statement from their spokeswoman, Jessica Munday, reads:
With today's decision of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Capobianco family's long legal nightmare has finally come to an end. Matt and Melanie cannot wait to bring Veronica home and begin the healing process as a reunited family.
Their hope now is that the Brown family and the Cherokee Nation will return Veronica peacefully and voluntarily, rather than following through with their previous threats to continue to ignore court orders and place Veronica in a dangerous and tramatic situation.
Earlier, the Capobiancos released a number of photos from their recent visits with Veronica.
Brown belongs to the Cherokee Nation. He won custody under the Indian Child Welfare Act when Veronica was two and living with the Capobiancos.
The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that law didn't apply, and the Capobiancos were finalized as her adoptive parents this summer. But Brown never handed over the child as he appeals through Oklahoma courts, and he and his representatives, like Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree and Attorney Clark Brewster, continue to fight for Veronica.
Hembree addressed the latest ruling by stating:
This order, just like any other order from a foreign jurisdiction needs to be filed for domestication with the Cherokee Nation District Court. There is a conflicting Cherokee Nation order concerning a Cherokee Nation citizen on Cherokee Nation land. We are a sovereign nation with a valid and historic court system. As Attorney General, I will require that our court system be honored and respected. I took an oath when assuming this office to uphold the laws and constitution of the Cherokee Nation and the United States. Nowhere in that oath is it required that I defend the laws of South Carolina.
Brewster argued Brown tried to appease the requests of the Capobiancos during the mediation hearings:
Dusten tried in every way to reason with the Copabiancos and their legal team of Washington DC, and local lawyers. We have spent the past 5 days trying to forge an agreement, to no avail. Although the Oklahoma Supreme Court today dissolved it's Order staying enforcement of the ruling of Judge Delapp we will confer with Dusten about his remaining legal options and vigorously pursue Veronica's right to have her best interests be the paramount consideration.
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