Catch-22: Parole Remote for Inmates Proclaiming Innocence

Sam Eilfing’s article in today’s Tyee online news magazine is well worth the read:

In it, he discusses the catch-22 facing all innocent prisoners: If you refuse to acknowledge guilt, the parole board will say you haven’t taken the first step to rehabilitation. Hence, you remain a danger to society, etc etc.

Sadly, that’s only one of the ways innocent “offenders” are disadvantaged over those who are guilty. Another is that, when released, as was wrongly convicted Ivan Henry (@iwmh_Ivan) in 2009, they are simply kicked out onto the street–without, for instance, any of the benefits the guilty receive, such as a community of people afforded by halfway-houses, room and board, financial and employment assistance, etc.

Ivan Henry and Me. The Wrongful Conviction of an Innocent Man

Acclaimed writer Gary Ross has written a wonderful article about Ivan and me: WRONGED!

In it, Gary deftly underscores the indefatigable perseverance of Ivan Henry–four years out of jail (after 27) and still penniless. Bloodied but unbowed.

Could not the defendants, who continue to argue that he is the author of his own misfortune, advance him at least a pittance of money pending the outcome of litigation?

My book, to be published in September 2014, will prove his innocence.

Wrongful Conviction: Confessions

In the area of wrongful conviction law, “confessions” are viewed through two different lenses.

For instance, a confession by the actual perpetrator can, and should, lead to a finding that the convicted prisoner is “factually innocent.” For instance, twenty years after Anthony Hanemaayer, an Ontario man, pleaded guilty to sexual assault, convicted serial rapist/killer Paul Bernardo confessed to his crime. Asked why he pleaded guilty, Hanemaayer said, “I was nineteen years old. I got a sentence of two years less a day. Otherwise, it could’ve been ten. I was scared of doing Federal time, so I took the deal.”

Then there is the matter of “false confessions”—very often the lynchpin in a finding of guilt in the case of an innocent person. In their book, Actual Innocence (2003), Barry Scheck (@barryschek), Peter Neufeld and Jim Dwyer (@jimdwyernyt) write that, of seventy-four U.S. wrongful conviction cases reconstructed by the Innocence Project in 2000, false confessions were a factor in 22 percent.

The false confession of an unsophisticated young man with a low IQ played a major role in the wrongful convictions featured in the recent, award-winning documentary, on the West Memphis 3. The movie examines the case of three young Arkansas men who were locked up for the horrific 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys. Perhaps the most powerful piece of the prosecution’s case was a confession by one of them, describing in graphic detail how he and his two co-defendants beat, raped and mutilated the boys. The documentary, however, showed how the police, after hours of intense interrogation; heavy with leading questions, manipulated and extracted a false story from the young man.

Jurors have a difficult time believing someone would confess to a crime they did not commit.