The Second District court of Appeals in Los Angeles this week ruled that the parole board can’t withhold parole privileges from someone they would otherwise grant release to simply because they maintain their innocence of the original crime. The case involved a man convicted of the murder of his girlfriend, a man who still maintains he was wrongfully convicted.
He was sentenced to 17 to life back in 1983 for the shooting of his ex girlfriend who had recently begun seeing another man. He threatened her just hours before the murder, according to The San Francisco Gate. An eyewitness said the profile they saw from about 75 yards away could’ve been the defendant’s.
He remains in prison to this day, after being denied parole eight times so far. He was 52 at the time of his last denial. He was in ill health, had abided by the rules of the institution, participated in programming, earned a college degree, and was given a “favorable” review from the prison psychologist. But, he maintained his innocence.
In their denial, the board cited that by not admitting his guilt he was not taking responsibility for a crime the courts had ruled he was guilty of. By not accepting responsibility they claimed he posed a danger to society.
According to the Appeal Court ruling this week, however, the parole board overstepped their boundaries in using these factors for denying parole. The Court states that the lack of admission can’t be taken as evidence of dangerousness. In other words they can’t assume someone who won’t admit guilt is dangerous solely because of their lack of ownership in the offense.
This ruling cements the parole board’s authority or limits of that authority in determining how an admission of guilt or lack thereof can affect an inmate’s chances of release. After all, there is a chance he is innocent as he claims.
There’s no real way of knowing for certain how many people are incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit. Or how many are carrying around criminal records when they are actually innocent. Courts make mistakes. Juries do too. It’s the job of a criminal defense attorney to ensure no stone is left unturned when it comes to establishing a client’s innocence, however.
When you are accused of a crime you didn’t commit, you shouldn’t admit to it. But some people feel trapped, especially when offered a plea agreement in a case that would otherwise send them to prison. Discussing your options and chances of conviction with an experienced, local defense lawyer can help put your mind at ease and make sense of the direction you should take.