Would you plead guilty if you’re really innocent?

In 1989, Anthony Hanemaayer pleaded guilty to a knifepoint sexual assault on a 15-year old girl. But Hanemaayer was innocent. So why did he plead guilty? Because he was afraid he couldn’t prove his innocence, that the courts would find him guilty, and that he’d be sentenced to a heavy term in federal prison. In exchange for his plea, he was given a lesser sentence of two years less a day in a provincial reformatory.

In June 2006, Scarborough rapist and serial killer Paul Bernardo confessed to this attack, providing details that only the attacker would know. Police, convinced Bernardo was the real perpetrator, then spoke to Hanemaayer but didn’t tell him Bernardo had confessed to the crime.

Lawyers for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted didn’t find out about Bernardo’s confession until late 2007, and then only by happenstance. They were working on another case in which Bernardo may have played a role, the murder of Elizabeth Bain and the wrongful conviction of her boyfriend, Robert Baltovich. It was only this past week that Hanemaayer was finally and fully exonerated.

So, would you plead guilty if you were really innocent?