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Indiana Court Rules that Correct Conviction Must be Used when Revoking Parole

by Christopher Zoukis

Tyrone Grayson was on parole after serving a 20-year sentence for attempted robbery and a consecutive 10-year sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm when he committed another offense. He was charged and received a new 12-year prison term, then ordered to serve the balance of his 20-year sentence by the parole board.

The problem was that when he violated his parole, the 20-year sentence for attempted robbery had already been discharged – yet that was the term the parole board had revoked. The Indiana Department of Correction later “fixed the records” to reflect that Grayson was on parole for the 10-year sentence for possession of a firearm when he violated parole.

On August 23, 2016, the Court of Appeals held that merely “fixing” the records wasn’t enough.

“Because parolees charged with violations of parole are within the protection of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, we find that Grayson was entitled to an opportunity to be heard on the allegation that he violated parole for the correct sentence,” the appellate court wrote.

The state acknowledged a mistake had been made, but argued that changing the paperwork was all that was required. Given the fact that Grayson was ordered to serve the balance of his sentence for the parole violation, however, revoking the wrong parole term could have led to a longer prison term. The Constitution prohibits such an outcome without providing due process.

The Indiana Court of Appeals, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972), laid out those requirements.

“The minimum requirements of due process include written notice of the claimed parole violations, disclosure to the parolee of the evidence against him, an opportunity to be heard in person and to present evidence, the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, a ‘neutral and detached’ parole-hearing board, and a written statement by the board of the evidence relied upon and the reasons for revoking parole.”

Finding that Grayson had not been afforded the right to be heard on the correct parole violation, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment with “instructions to grant post-conviction relief on the parole revocation of Grayson’s twenty-year sentence for attempted robbery....” Grayson represented himself on appeal. See: Grayson v. State, 58 N.E.3d 998 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016). 

Related legal case

Grayson v. State