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New rules give more crime victims a voice in parole hearings

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Danielle Tudor, a victim of convicted rapist Richard Troy Gillmore, was the driving force behind a new law that gives more crime victims a say in parole hearings.SALEM — Keeping dangerous criminals behind bars will be easier in Oregon due to an expanded definition of “victim” under the state’s parole rules, a victims’ rights advocate says.

Danielle Tudor is one of several victims of Richard Troy Gillmore, the Portland-area “jogger rapist” who was convicted of rape, burglary and sexual abuse in 1987. However, because Gillmore’s rape conviction was not based on the crime committed against Tudor, she had trouble testifying during his parole hearing in 2012.

Oregon’s Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision initially refused to let Tudor speak at the hearing but relented after she filed a lawsuit, she said.

“That parole hearing for me was traumatic but it was also empowering,” she said.

‘I can fight back’

Tudor describes it as a pivotal moment that convinced her to change the board’s definition of victim so that other people affected by crime could not be shut out of similar parole hearings. “I found out I can fight back. Not only can I fight back, but I can win,” she said.

While Tudor was a documented Gillmore crime victim and testified at his sentencing, prosecutors could not prosecute him for his attack on her because the statute of limitations had run out, she said.

Tudor was initially shut out of the parole hearing because she wasn’t the “victim of incarceration” under the board’s rules at the time. Under the expanded definition, however, the board can consider testimony from other people who have been determined by the board, the court or the prosecutor to have suffered from the convict’s crime or related crimes.

Tudor said she worries that Gillmore would be released unless the parole board can consider her story and the stories of his other victims.

“You wouldn’t hear about how real it’s been in my life. That would be lost,” she said.

The new definition of victim will affect other criminals who are under consideration for parole, and provide the board with a more accurate picture of these convicts, she said.

“The parole board needs to hear those voices,” Tudor said. “We give them a look into an inmate’s life like they’re not going to get otherwise.”

Prejudicial to the inmate?

Not everybody is a fan of the revised definition, though.

The Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association is concerned the new definition may be overly inclusive and impede the fairness of the parole process, said Ed Kroll, its president.

“I don’t see why it needed to be expanded, quite frankly,” he said.

Kroll said the definition is now “nebulous” and could allow anyone with a tangential connection to the inmate to testify at parole hearings.

For example, a person injured by the convict in a “driving under the influence” incident could potentially speak at his parole hearing for a murder conviction, even if it was unrelated, he said.

“The person with the broken leg can come in too and say he shouldn’t get out,” Kroll said.

In another scenario, an inmate may have been convicted of assaulting one victim but acquitted of assaulting another person, he said. The victim of the unproven assault could nonetheless testify at the parole hearing, Kroll said.

Such a possibility would be prejudicial to the inmate and fly in the face of the jury verdict, he said. “It’s stuff like that that really concerns us.”

Mateusz Perkowski is a reporter with the Pamplin Media Group/EO Media Group Capital Bureau in Salem.

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