Man Must Stay In Prison For Owning Once Illegal Nunchucks

Jeremy David Purkey (Photo courtesy Arizona Dept. of Corrections)

An Arizona man convicted of weapons misconduct for being in possession of nunchaku, or nunchucks, in 2012 must serve out his 10-year sentence even though it’s no longer illegal to possess the martial arts tool, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled this week.

Jeremy David Purkey was found guilty by Maricopa County jury in January 2014 and began serving his sentence with credit for nearly 300 days spent in jail awaiting trial. But in September 2019 he filed a notice for post-conviction relief after the Arizona Legislature removed nunchaku from a list of weapons that Arizonans cannot possess.

Purkey, 39, argued that last year’s revision of state law was “a significant change” entitling him to relief from the trial court where he was convicted of the Class 4 felony. However, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge dismissed Purkey’s notice without allowing him to submit a detailed petition.

According to the trial judge, Purkey’s claim lacked merit, as the court could not grant any relief because the state legislature did not make the change of the law retroactive. Purkey then turned to the court of appeals, which granted review but denied his requested relief.

The Oct. 14 appellate decision notes the only claim in Purkey’s notice “is facially meritless” as “no statute is retroactive unless expressly declared” as such.

Purkey has until Nov. 13 to petition for review to the Arizona Supreme Court. He is representing himself in the post-conviction relief process.

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Public records show Purkey could be eligible for early release -similar to parole- in January 2022. One issue that might block such release, however, is his disciplinary record while in prison.

The Arizona Department of Corrections website shows Purkey has committed six major infractions since 2014. The most recent incident was promoting prison contraband in May, which occurred than two weeks after he was involved in a fight.

Public records show Purkey was released from prison in May 2005 after serving time for a 2000 auto theft case out of Cochise County. He was arrested a few months later for an auto theft in Pima County which resulted in another prison stint through June 2010.

Purkey’s 10-year sentence was based on the fact he was a three-time felon. He was never accused of using the nunchaku in any act of violence, only being in possession of what the state considered a weapon.

Arizona’s prior ban on nunchaku began in the 1970s in response to the growing interest in martial arts and the popularity of martial arts movies.