Most of us are pretty familiar with the principles that guide the U.S. criminal justice system. Defendants are considered innocent unless they're proven guilty. The jury gives a verdict solely based on evidence submitted in court. Then a judge hands down a sentence.
But when parole boards are considering whether to release convicted criminals before their sentence is complete, the standards are much less clearly defined.
In a newly published report for The Marshall Project and The Washington Post, Beth Schwartzapfel writes, "hearsay, rumor and instinct are all fair game."
- "America's prisons hold tens of thousands of people like Rodriguez — people primarily confined not by the verdicts of a judge or a jury but by the inaction of a parole board. Michigan is one of 26 states where parole boards are vested with almost unlimited power to decide who gets out of prison when, and why."
- "As a teenager, Greg Diatchenko was convicted of murder and given the mandatory sentence: life without parole. Now science, and the courts, could give him another chance."
This segment aired on July 13, 2015.