Law & Crime

Legal and Criminal

A man who’s spent more than 30 years behind bars for a double murder he says he did not commit has a powerful new ally today.  Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding says he’s spent more than 200 hours studying the case, and he believes Soering is innocent.  He’s explained his thinking in a 19-page letter to Governor Terry McAuliffe who, to date, has refused to pardon Soering. 

University of Virginia School of Law

Experts believe that about 4% of people in prison or jail didn’t actually commit the crime for which they were convicted.  In Virginia state prisons alone, that means more than a thousand people shouldn’t be there. Sandy Hausman looks at why wrongful conviction happens, and why a literary celebrity is lending his name to the fight for reform.

Dave Nakayama / Creative Commons

In 1995, Virginia abolished parole -- a change that led to crowding of state prisons and longer stays behind bars.  Now, small cracks have developed in the legal wall that keeps about 30,000 people locked up.  Sandy Hausman reports on changes that could free some inmates.

The Promise Movie

It’s been more than 30 years since police arrested Jens Soering, an honors student from the University of Virginia, and charged him with the brutal murder of his girlfriend’s parents in their Bedford County home.  To this day, Soering insists he is innocent, but he’s been turned down for parole nearly a dozen times.  Today, his lawyer filed a petition asking for a full pardon - citing new evidence that Soering is not guilty.  

AP Photo / Steve Helber, File

Under pressure from Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s parole board has doubled its release rate – freeing six percent of eligible inmates in 2016, up from three percent last year.  Tomorrow, the board will consider an especially controversial case – that of a convicted killer who’s been behind bars here for 26 years.  

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