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Washington Supreme Court Reverses Parole Denial

In a shocking five-to-four decision, the Washington Supreme Court, for the first time ever, reversed a parole denial by the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (Board).

The Court found that the Board had ignored evidence at Richard Dyer?s December 4, 2002 parole hearing and had based its decision to deny him parole on ?speculation and conjecture.? The Court found this to be an abuse of discretion and remanded the case to the Board for reconsideration.

Dyer, a Washington State prisoner, was convicted in 1982 of two counts of first degree rape. He received two concurrent life sentences and has been in prison ever since.

Dyer has undergone numerous psychological exams during his incarceration. The early ones were all negative. But he availed himself of every self-help program he could take, and his attitude and behavior have been exemplary, according to his prison counselor.

Ironically, the one program he can?t get into is sex offender treatment. From the beginning Dyer has vehemently denied committing the crimes for which he?s spent almost two-and-a-half decades behind bars. Because he won?t say he?s guilty, he can?t get into the sex offender treatment program.

Even so, Carson Carter, a mental health counselor sent by the Board to evaluate Dyer, recommended him for parole. Carter, who has extensive experience in administering tests to determine the re-offense risk posed by sex-offenders, said Dyer presented ?a low risk to reoffend? and ?met the criterion for a less restrictive environment.?

But Board member John Austin was unmoved. Austin implied that Dyer?s self-help efforts, exemplary behavior and recent positive psychological report were the fruits of some elaborate scheme he?d cooked up to trick the Board into releasing him from prison. He was denied parole, according to Austin, because he hadn?t completed sex offender treatment.

The Court?s five male justices found that the Board ignored evidence and denied Dyer parole based on speculation, and thus abused its discretion. The four female justices would have affirmed the Board?s denial of parole to Dyer.

Dyer was represented by renowned Seattle criminal appeals lawyer David Zuckerman. ?I hope the Board members take this ruling to heart,? said Zuckerman. ?I think the Supreme Court was letting them know that their discretion isn?t unlimited. Someone is looking over their shoulder.? See: In re the Matter of the Personal Restraint of Dyer, 157 Wash.2d 358, 139 P.3d 320 (Wash., 2006).

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Related legal case

In re the Matter of the Personal Restraint of Dyer