Juneal Pratt has been in Nebraska prisons for 35 years for a crime he says he didn’t commit, and his lawyers say he was denied parole because he won’t admit guilt. Yesterday, attorneys at the Nebraska Innocence Project asked a state judge to grant Pratt parole based on his record in prison and his claim of innocence.
Pratt was convicted of a 1975 sexual assault of two girls at an Omaha motel. The victims first identified other suspects in a photo lineup, but then identified Pratt in a live lineup. He has always said he didn’t commit the crime.
The Nebraska Board of Parole denied Pratt’s parole in January, saying he was required to complete a sex-offender rehabilitation program – which requires prisoners to admit guilt — before he can be released. Pratt says he won’t admit to the crime. Most biological evidence from the case has been lost, and the only DNA results obtained earlier showed that skin cells on the clothing of one victim did not match Pratt.
Pratt’s attorney, Tracy Hightower-Henne, said she thinks the denial of parole is “100 percent based” on her client’s unwillingness to admit guilt. She said it is unreasonable of the board to order more rehabilitation that Pratt cannot successfully pass and, after passing several rehab courses, does not need.
“They’re continuing to make his life miserable because he claims his innocence,” Hightower-Henne said.
A ruling is not expected for at least a month.
Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction overturned through DNA testing.
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