On June 4th, The New York Times posted a video story titled “The Innocent Prisoner’s Dilemma” that chronicles the plight of Herbert Murray, a man who spent decades in a New York State prison for a crime he did not commit in part due to the parole board’s decision to hold his cries of innocence against him. The video also contains numerous excerpts of an interview with Daniel Medwed, a Professor of Law at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, and footage of his criminal law class.
Medwed coined the term “Innocent Prisoner’s Dilemma” in a 2008 article published in the Iowa Law Review to describe the Catch-22 that innocent prisoners face in encountering the parole board. As Medwed explains it, on the one hand, prisoners who maintain their innocence are unlikely to obtain parole because parole boards typically demand expressions of remorse and acceptance of responsibility. On the other hand, an innocent prisoner who “admits” guilt before the parole board may increase the chance of procuring parole, but at a steep price. Such an admission will probably hinder any future attempt to prove innocence through post-conviction litigation.
Although Medwed did not work on Murray’s case, he did help Robert Fennell, an innocent prisoner wrongfully convicted of murder in New York, obtain parole before Medwed the Utah faculty in 2004.
To view the video, click here.