Assistant A.G. Doesn’t Oppose Evidentiary Hearing in Fairbanks Four Case
Special Prosecutor Adrienne Bachman does not oppose an evidentiary hearing in the Fairbanks Four case, saying it will be “the defendant’s burden to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they are factually innocent” of the 1997 murder of John Hartman, a Fairbanks teenager.
But in a 23-page review of the case submitted to the Superior Court on May 15, Bachman states that the defendants’ claims of innocence “are based on likely inadmissible evidence;” a prison inmate’s sworn statement that his friend inflicted the fatal injuries is based on hearsay; a potentially corroborating statement is from a witness who is not credible; and proposed updated testimony from two expert witnesses that testified in the 1998 trial “does not qualify as newly discovered evidence” under the law.
Bachman, an assistant state attorney general, was directed by an Alaska Superior Court last fall to review George Frese, Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts and Eugene Vent’s case after the Alaska Innocence Project obtained a sworn statement from William Holmes, a former Fairbanks man serving life in a California prison for murdering two drug-ring rivals in 2002, providing new details about the assault that led to Hartman’s death.
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In his three-page sworn statement, Holmes wrote that on the evening of October 11, 1997, he and four high school friends – not the Fairbanks Four – were driving around town looking for “drunk Natives” to harass when they “saw a white boy walking alone.” Holmes stopped the car, the four friends got out and knocked the boy to the ground. As one of the friends went through the boy’s pockets, another friend, Jason Wallace, repeatedly stomped the boy, Holmes wrote.
When Holmes and Wallace read in the newspaper that the boy, John Hartman, had died later in the hospital, Holmes told all four friends “to tell no one about that night … act like that night never happened.” Bill Oberly of the Alaska Innocence Project said Holmes decided to finally talk about Hartman’s death because he’s a Christian now and a corrections officer in whom he had confided urged him to come forward.
Holmes’ statement is dated August 12, 2012. The Alaska Innocence Project spent nearly a year corroborating Holmes’ confession before asking the Superior Court to consider a new trial. That request, for what is called “post-conviction relief,” was filed September 25, 2013.
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