News 07.14.14

Attorney Says Dismiss Conviction of “Fairbanks Four” Man

Nearly a year after the

Alaska Innocence Project

filed court documents citing new evidence that may suggest that four men — dubbed the Fairbanks Four — who were convicted of the 1997 deadly beating of a classmate are actually innocent, an attorney for one of the men is asking for his conviction to be overturned.

 

In a special report that appeared in Saturday’s edition of the

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

, University of Alaska Fairbanks journalism professor Brian O’Donoghue reported that Eugene Vent’s attorney was never notified by authorities of another man’s confession.

 

“If I had gotten the information in 2011 when it was available to the state of Alaska,” defense attorney Colleen Libbey said Friday, according to the

News-Miner

, “I would have filed something immediately to get my client out of jail.”

 

Hours after John Hartman was found dead, Vent and George Frese confessed to killing him. They implicated two other boys, Marvin Roberts and Kevin Pease and all four were convicted of the murder. In the years following, Vent and Frese recanted and claimed their confessions were false. All four men have served nearly 17 years.

 

Libbey is referring to information passed on from California prison authorities to the Fairbanks police in December 2011 in which a former Fairbanks man serving a double-life sentence in California described taking part in Hartman’s murder. William Z. Holmes’ supervisor personally provided the information to Fairbanks officials and according to the Alaska Innocence Project, there is email correspondence between a detective and the District Attorney’s Office confirming notification about Holmes. Libbey didn’t learn about Holmes until this February when cold case detectives followed up on his later confession to the Alaska Innocence Project.

 

“I was upset. I was shocked about this memo,” Libbey said Friday to the

News-Miner

. “I didn’t know anything about Holmes until 2013 when the Innocence Project contacted me.”

 

When Holmes sent his confession to the Alaska Innocence Project in August 2012, he said that he was driving a car with three other students with the intention to “have some fun” and mess with “drunk Natives.” Ultimately they drove by a “white boy walking alone.”

 

“We all got excited and say, ‘We got one!’ ” Holmes wrote.

 

In court on Thursday, Libbey contended that the prosecution is concealing potential exculpatory evidence.

 

“Failure to produce the evidence in a timely manner has delayed justice and continued incarceration for a wrongful conviction,” said Libbey to the

News-Miner

.

 


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