Justices remove selves from reviewing Beach case
John S. Adams
HELENA — In the latest twist in the ongoing saga of Barry Beach, the man freed last December after serving 29 years in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit, two Montana Supreme Court justices have disqualified themselves from reviewing the high-profile case.
The two District Court judges selected to replace Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice James Nelson on the panel reviewing Beach’s case were appointed to the bench by former Gov. Marc Racicot, the man who prosecuted Beach in the original 1984 murder trial. Racicot has continued to publicly declare his belief that Beach is guilty of Poplar classmate Kim Nees’ murder, and Beach’s legal team has claimed Racicot committed prosecutorial misconduct during the original trial when he made statements to the jury during closing arguments about evidence that was never introduced during the trial.
The state is appealing Fergus County District Court Judge E. Wayne Phillips’ ruling in December vacating Beach’s murder conviction and granting Beach a new trial based on new evidence that wasn’t available at the time of the original murder trial.
Beach was convicted in 1984 of the 1979 murder of Nees, but has long maintained his innocence. Beach’s conviction was based largely on a confession he gave Louisiana investigators, which he later claimed was coerced by aggressive interrogators.
McGrath’s assistant, Pam Hunthausen, said Friday that the justices would not comment on the matter. Neither Simonton nor Day returned phone calls seeking comment.
McGrath’s recusal was expected since his office continued to prosecute Beach during McGrath’s tenure as attorney general.
The reason for Nelson’s recusal is not entirely clear, but it might have to with the fact that Racicot appointed Nelson to the Supreme Court in 1993.
According to leading legal ethics scholar Geoffrey Hazard of the University of California Hastings School of Law, McGrath’s recusal was “clearly justified” because of his prior involvement in litigating Beach’s case.
To Continue Reading Complete Article: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20120806/NEWS01/308030026/Justices-remove-selves-from-reviewing-Beach-case?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFrontpage%7Cs&nclick_check=1
- The whole nation seems to be behind Barry Beach. It seems that even NBC Dateline is for him and other media as well. It has been almost 30 long years that he has spent behind walls and all of the evidence points to his innocence. Even the victims family believes he is innocent. A brother of one of the gals they believe was one of the perpetrators said that his sister told him that she did it. Why is Steve Bullock so keen on thinking that every other Montanan is a criminal? Does he truly believe that his department and those that work under him are not capable of mistakes? The same with the former Prosecutor/Governor that was on this case originally?
- We are hearing many cases where evidence has been tampered with and how his office has known about it. We hear and read in the media of corruption within the Police, the County Attorneys, the Judges, and the list goes on and on. Montana is this the type of setting and belief that you want for a Governor? It should scare you when someone is so intent on this beautiful state becoming a full blown “Police State.” Look at the numbers of how many are incarcerated per 100,000 in each county in this state. It is only growing higher and higher.
- I don’t think “Innovate Montana” is going to work. I think they will just continue to keep locking up citizens and keep the state the way it is a “Park State” which may be good for the folks pocketing the money. But it is not good for you Montana citizens as this does not increase your income and you could be the “target product” for their prison coffers. What is Governor Brian Schweitzer doing about all of this that has gone on under his watch? He has appointed people and then allows them to run wild. He has to know that “Innovate Montana” is not going to work. People will not want to move to state that is a prison state. Yet, Governor Brian Schweitzer remains silent and allows it to go on.
- I believe there is going to be more of an outcry if they were to put Barry Beach back in prison. There are more people for him, as there should be. I believe the state is digging themselves more and more into a hole. Too much is coming out on them in the media, in state report cards, through Montanans that are fed up, yet they brazenly stay on the same path. Citizens are watching and noticing that. They eyes of the nation is watching Montana on many different issues and waiting to call them on the carpet if they don’t start doing the right thing.