Fairbanks Four hearings

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

BREAKING: Fairbanks Four to be released.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The latest in the case of the Fairbanks Four, or the four indigenous men convicted in the 1997 beating death of a teenager on a street in Fairbanks, Alaska. The young men who spent their adult lives in prison following a controversial 1997 murder conviction, appeared at a closed-door hearing in Fairbanks wearing street clothes.

All times are local: The four men were convicted of beating a Fairbanks teenager to death in 1997, but many called their convictions a rush to judgment based on their race. According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle made his decision around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, and ordered the three men still in custody — George Frese, Kevin Pease and Eugene Vent — to be taken to the Fairbanks Correctional Center and released there immediately. Attorney General Craig Richards says it was obvious that new evidence brought up during the hearing would have warranted a new trial. “It’s just time to heal, help the Fairbanks community heal and put this behind us.” Chris Kelly, the older brother of victim John Hartman, called into the hearing and expressed shock at the news. “If they are guilty, how can you justify making this deal? Bill Walker, who is also in Fairbanks on Thursday, said he was waiting to see the outcome of an ongoing settlement process, which he described as “more expeditious” than his powers to grant a pardon.

Advocates long argued the four were wrongly convicted and called on the governor to release them during demonstrations, including an October gathering at the state’s largest convention of Alaska Natives. I commend UAF Journalism Professor Brian O’Donoghue for his dogged investigation and the outstanding attorneys of the Alaska Innocence Project and Dorsey & Whitney for their diligent representation. As part of a post-conviction relief lawsuit, and during a five-week hearing that ended Nov. 10, attorneys for the four presented evidence that a different group of men killed Hartman. A judge then canceled a hearing over the proposed deal, saying it was unclear whether he had the authority to free the men without a pardon or clemency. The state would throw out their indictments and convictions and agree not to retry the four unless prosecutors find “substantial” new evidence of the men’s guilt.

He asked both sides to come together to write a joint brief due Dec. 20 explaining his authority to release the men if they withdrew their claims of innocence while the state maintained the position their convictions were valid.

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