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Jail Watch: The Public Needs to Understand How Parole Officials Can Trump Juries – The Injustice to Jimmie Lee Page

Jimmie Lee Page has served almost 20 years in jail after an Austin jury found him not guilty.

(The Austin American Statesman is doing a great thing in educating the public, by its recent re-publication of a story it first reported back in 2007 – telling the story of Jimmie Lee Page. Read the full article, it’s worth your time, at the link shown below.)

How Can You Serve 20 Years in Jail After Being Found Not Guilty?

It’s easy in this country. All you have to do is be on parole for something else, because those parole officials can trump a jury faster than Michael Phelps can win a gold medal.

In Page’s case, the parole guys listened to one witness — a police detective who told them that Page was “as guilty as sin” — before they revoked Page’s parole and sent him back to the slammer. Since then, they’ve just been denying Page a right to parole whenever his case gets rotated up for review.

What Did Page Do?

Thirty-two years ago, when he was a young man (Page is now 52), Jimmy Page killed a friend of his – and he pled guilty to that crime, got a life sentence, and served 11 years in prison before he was released on parole. Page returned to Nacogdoches, Texas, to live with his mother.

He’d done nothing to violate parole, by the way. Still hasn’t.

Eight months later, Page was arrested for the local murder of a housekeeper. He insisted he was innocent, and instead of taking a plea, he went to trial where he was found innocent by a jury of his peers.

Importantly, Page’s attorney ( a veteran defense attorney with 35+ years experience) tells reporters that while a lot of his clients are indeed guilty, he truly believes that Page is innocent of the murder for which he was charged.

What’s the Evidence Against Him? The Only Key Evidence is Eyewitness Testimony of a Traumatized Boy Whose Credibility is Questionable

There was scant evidence against Page in the Nacogdoches murder case.

The key witness was an eyewitness — a child who was also a victim in the crime. The boy did pointed the finger at Page in one line-up, but this traumatized boy also pointed the finger at another man in another line-up, and described someone who looked a lot different than Page to the police artist who drew up a sketch of the assailant.

Psychological experts kept the boy from the parole hearing – the child was too fragile to give any testimony to the parole officials. So, all they heard was from their one law enforcement guy.

Two Serious Threats to Justice Here That the Public Should Know About

Kudos to the Austin American Statesman for a great article (definitely read the whole thing, the link is shown below), and for getting the following information out to the general public:

1. The American Public needs to understand that once someone is on parole, there’s very little to safeguard against injustice in parole board hearings, as the Page case typifies. These officials can trump a jury verdict without any of the evidentiary protections set in place in a criminal trial, and few know about this Star Chamber crack in the system; and

2. Eyewitness testimony in this country should not carry the weight that it is given in trials today. Countless studies have been done on how human beings do not remember things (or people) accurately and having someone point the finger on the stand should not be unilaterally taken as true. The child-victim in this case is a point in fact; psychologically harmed, he gave many different faces to his perpetrator, and as sympathetic as we all must be to his tragedies, his single voice should not be used to put a man behind bars — especially when that eyewitness account is taken by a police officer and used, hearsay though it is, as his basis for telling the parole board that a man is guilty of a crime. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sources:

Austin American Statesman
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/archive/0415page.html

Stanford University – Journal of Legal Studies (The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony)
http://agora.stanford.edu/sjls/Issue%20One/fisher&tversky.htm


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