One reversal could turn into another as a Pauls Valley woman freed from prison earlier this year because of a court ruling now has a new court date for the same case.
Family and friends of Clarissa Mars, 26, were ecstatic with relief when this past March 30 her case and prison sentence were dismissed based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision from last year.
Known as the McGirt ruling, the high court determined most of Oklahoma is still Native American lands because reservations were never formally disestablished.
The ruling meant the state of Oklahoma didn't have the authority to prosecute criminal charges for alleged acts committed on tribal reservations when the defendants or victims are tribal citizens.
In Mars' case it meant her Citizen Potawatomi tribal membership prevented the state of Oklahoma from having the authority to prosecute her criminal case.
Another decision this past summer, this one from a high Oklahoma court, determined the McGirt ruling was not retroactive for cases before July 2020.
Now a February 2022 court date has been scheduled as a Garvin County prosecutor is looking to push for the dismissal to be reversed and the Mars' conviction reinstated.
Assistant District Attorney Corey Miner says the motion is a response to the case DA v. Wallace that states McGirt only applies to “cases decided after McGirt not before.” The case comes from Pushmataha County.
Mars was 18 when she was originally charged in 2014 with committing lewd acts with a 15-year-old girl.
After taking a plea deal in 2015 Mars was given a suspended sentence, which two years later was revoked because a number of violations of the sentence was reported. In the summer of 2017 she was given a five-year prison term.
At the time of Mars’ conviction and sentence being vacated this past spring the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals had granted post-conviction relief based on the McGirt ruling that determined the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation still existed because it was never formally disestablished.
That ruling spread to other Native American tribes, such the Chickasaw Nation with a territory that includes all of Garvin County.
Then this past August the same court determined the McGirt decision cannot be used to retroactively to throw out earlier criminal convictions.
A portion of the court’s ruling, stated in a court document filed in the state’s motion for the Mars case, offers more on its reasoning.
“Post-conviction claims based on McGirt are not permitted in cases in which the conviction became final on direct review before July 9, 2020 – the day McGirt was decided.”