Group files motion to clear Fairbanks 4

FAIRBANKS (AP) — The Alaska Innocence Project has filed a motion for post-conviction relief for four Fairbanks men, the so-called Fairbanks Four, who it claims were improperly convicted of killing a teenager in 1997.

Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent, Kevin Pease and George Frese were convicted in trials held in Anchorage and are serving lengthy prison sentences for the death of John Hartman, who was found beaten on a Fairbanks street corner and later died at a hospital.

Alaska Innocence Project Director Bill Oberly said during a news conference Wednesday in Fairbanks that new technology will challenge a suggestive footprint that was part of the 1999 trial, and the group questions the veracity of an eyewitness account, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (

The group also has claimed that a former Fairbanks man now serving a double life sentence in California has confessed that he and other former Lathrop High School friends were involved in Hartman's death.

"I know that one might question the veracity of someone who's in prison, but you also have to ask why he might come forward. It doesn't make sense that he would make this up," Oberly said.

Oberly presented the evidence Monday to Fairbanks police and the district attorney's office.

"There wasn't much response, but it was the first time they'd heard it, so I didn't expect there to be," Oberly said.

The state Department of Law didn't immediately respond to a request Wednesday from The Associated Press for comment.

Prosecutors now have 45 days to respond to the filing, Oberly said.

The inmate made the alleged confession last year, and Oberly said the Innocence Project waited a year before filing to corroborate it.

Several hundred people lined the walkways at the Rabinowitz Courthouse for the news conference after the Tanana Chiefs Conference, a consortium of 42 Interior tribal communities, had announced there would be a significant development in the case against the four Alaska Native men.

The tribal consortium in 2011 offered a cash reward for information that would lead to the exoneration of the four. Advocates had long claimed they were convicted based not on evidence but on police interrogations and the confessions from two of the men, who later recanted.

09/26/2013 - 5:33am