Montana man freed from prison decades after murder he long denied

21 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

BREAKING: Barry Beach Released from Prison.

DEER LODGE, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s Democratic governor on Friday ordered the release of Barry Beach, whose cause drew widespread support as he maintained his innocence throughout three decades in prison for the killing of a high school classmate. Beach, 53, has been serving a 100-year sentence in Montana State Prison for deliberate homicide in the 1979 beating death of Kimberly Nees, 17, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, in the northeast corner of the state. Additional requirements contained within the order direct Beach to serve the suspended portion of the sentence on probation under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. The murder of honor student Nees gripped the small town of Poplar after her body was found alongside the river at a popular place for teenagers to party.

The killing remained unsolved for several years, with small-town gossip building until out-of-state police got Beach’s confession after picking him up on an unrelated crime. Bullock did not release a statement about the decision, but the order notes that Beach was 17 years old at the time of the crime and that he has served more than 30 years for a crime that happened when he was a juvenile. The order also notes that during three decades of incarceration Beach has “maintained a good institutional record,” and during 18 months of freedom in Billings several years ago he “demonstrated that he is capable of living a productive life and respecting society’s rules.” In 2011, a state District Court judge granted Beach a new trial, finding that there was potential new evidence in the case. The law was inspired by Beach who has been denied parole four times despite growing public support and the backing of a bipartisan coalition of current and former state and federal officials.

He spent 18 months living in Billings until, on a 4-3 vote, Supreme Court overturned that ruling and sent Beach back to prison to serve out his sentence. The board said it reached its decision by unanimous vote and determined that “the resubmitted application is substantively similar to a previous denied application. Bullock’s decision to grant Beach clemency follows a law passed this spring by the Legislature which allows the governor to overrule decisions by the Montana Board of Pardons & Parole. Beach filed his latest petition to the Parole Board in October asking to shorten or otherwise commute his sentence, allowing him to be paroled or freed.

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