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The Innocent Prisoner’s Dilemma: Consequences of Failing to Admit Guilt at Parole Hearings

Medwed, Daniel S.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Iowa Law Review 93:491

The granting of parole in the criminal justice system is often viewed as an act of grace: the dispensation of mercy by
the government to an individual prisoner deemed worthy of conditional release prior to the expiration of his sentence. …
Next, Part II explores how a parole board’s reliance on prisoner admissions of guilt in the parole release decision intersects
and potentially interferes with the efforts of innocent inmates to win their freedom. … These reforms include limiting
the use of parole hearing transcripts at subsequent post-conviction proceedings, distinguishing statements of remorse
from those of responsibility, and reconceiving the role parole boards play in entertaining questions of guilt and
innocence at the release decision stage. … Having observed that inmate statements on the topic of guilt or innocence are
important factors in the parole release decision-making process, it is now time to consider how this circumstance might
affect an individual prisoner. … And even more dangerous is the chance that an innocent prisoner’s persistence in his
innocence may flag over the years and over the course of recurring, disappointing appearances before the parole board –
that the enticement to succumb and “admit” guilt may eventually prove irresistible, as occurred in Bruce Dallas Goodman’s
case. … This would enable a parole board to investigate an inmate’s innocence claim after the parole hearing yet
prior to issuing a final release decision. (Excerpt from Author)


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