Convictions Erased for ‘Fairbanks Four’

fairbanks fourAt just after 5 pm on Thursday, the Fairbanks Four, four men convicted of the beating death of 15-year-old John Hartman in 1997, had their murder convictions erased after 18 years.

Of the four, only one has been out of prison since 1997, Marvin Roberts was released on parole earlier in 2015. The other three tasted freedom for the time in almost two decades Thursday.

The release of the previously convicted men came after a five-week evidentiary hearing earlier this year, and six-hours of  closed-door negotiations at the Fairbanks Courthouse Thursday.

In the final agreement, the state agreed to not pursue a new trial unless new evidence is obtained by the state. “The agreement reached today says that (the convictions) were properly obtained, and that nothing was done improperly either by the Fairbanks Police Department, by the lead detective, Aaron Ring, by any prosecutor that worked on the case,” stated John Skidmore, the director of the Department of Law Criminal Division. “Instead, what has been revealed is that there is new evidence submitted that suggests if they were tried again today, it would be more difficult to convict them.”

In return, the four men agreed to give up any claims of prosecutorial misconduct.

Over 150 people waited outside the closed doors Thursday awaiting news of the four men, dubbed the Fairbanks Four.

Alaska Senator, Lisa Murkowski released a statement following their release, saying, “I am pleased that the State of Alaska agreed to set aside the convictions of the Fairbanks Four based on the new evidence that has been developed and that Judge Lyle has accepted the settlement agreement today. I first took up the cause of the Fairbanks Four in 2013, asking the State of Alaska to take a hard look at whether their convictions were just. I concurrently asked the U.S. Department of Justice to examine whether the civil rights of the Fairbanks Four were violated.” Murkowski continued, saying, ” 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.  I also commend the members of the Fairbanks community who have stood vigil to ensure that the cause of the Fairbanks Four was not forgotten. Justice prevails!”

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Following the hearing, the men were taken to the Fairbanks Correctional Center one more time to be released. Following their release, the men then went on to the David Salmon Tribal Hall to celebrate their long-sought-after freedom.[xyz-ihs snippet=”Adsense-responsive”]