The Latest: Judge Frees Men Convicted in Fairbanks 4 Case

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Crowd gathers as closed hearing takes up Fairbanks Four case.

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 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that more than 150 people gathered outside a Fairbanks courtroom where an unscheduled hearing was taking place. Eugene Vent, Kevin Pease, George Frese and Marvin Roberts have spent their adult lives in prison for a 1997 conviction in the murder of teenager John Hartman. 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. An aunt of one of the men told the News-Miner she and three of the men still in state custody were on a Thursday morning flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

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. On Dec. 10, the day before a scheduled hearing on the case, Lyle issued an order that said he was “unaware of the legal authority” that would allow the men to be set free while the state stood by its convictions. At the Rabinowitz Courthouse in Fairbanks, attorneys on both sides of the case are apparently meeting with a Superior Court judge, but the hearing is closed to the public. Some supporters and family of the four men — George Frese, Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts and Eugene Vent — have been waiting in the hallway outside the courtroom since 9 a.m.

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. 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. Under Alaska law, the gubernatorial pardon process requires a minimum of 120 days to pass. “What is going on presently is much more expeditious than anything I could do,” Walker said. “Therefore, I am awaiting the outcome of this process.”

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