There may be several Oklahoma inmates currently serving time for violating state sex offender registry laws who could have their convictions overturned and be entitled to release, says Tulsa attorney John Dunn.
The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that state corrections officials have been violating the Oklahoma Constitution by retroactively applying state sex offender registry laws, thereby dramatically increasing the time many convicted sex offenders must spend on the registry.
Early news reports on the ruling focused on predictions that anywhere from several hundred to 3,000 convicted sex offenders could be entitled to have their names removed from the state's sex offender registry.
But the decision also means there may be some sex offenders who currently are wrongfully imprisoned, said Dunn, who represented sex offender James Starkey in the case that produced the Court decision.
Individuals currently imprisoned for failure to register as a sex offender, whose failure to register occurred during a time when they would not have been required to register if not for the corrections department's improper retroactive application of sex offender registry laws, are entitled to be released, Dunn said.
“There are an unknown number of people who are either on probation or in the penitentiary that should not be there,” Dunn said.
Dunn said he believes there could be many inmates who fall within that category, but “even if there is only one, that is one too many.”
Dunn said he sent an Oklahoma Open Records Act request to the corrections department and is aggressively trying to identify people who are in prison or on probation because of the improper interpretation of the law that went on for years.
Once those individuals are identified, Dunn said he will attempt to contact them and plans to use a post conviction relief procedure to try to secure their release from custody or probation.