Last Day – Court Proceedings in Fairbanks Four Trial End

The end of proceedings in the evidentiary hearing for post conviction relief is not the end of the road for the Fairbanks Four case. But it is the end of a significant portion of a long legal process, and the right day to look back on the long stretch of road already traveled and remember those who blazed the trail, who cleared the way, who walked the darkest and scariest parts, who joined in when it was the loneliest, and made the journey against all odds.

The judge could exonerate and free these men. The judge could order a new trial. The judge could uphold the convictions. Meeting the standard of clear and convincing evidence is one of the most complex and difficult legal feats in the field, and the judge could determine that it was not met. That is possible. Whatever the judge decides, it could be tomorrow, or it could be in six months. And the first thing we will have to say on that day, and the only thing we want to say today, is thank you.

Thank you to Shirley Demientieff, who stood up for the innocence of four young no-name boys when it was a position that invited scorn and ridicule. Thank you to a woman who would hold a one-person protest. Thank you to Shirley Dementieff who, on her death bed, made a request to another woman she trusted absolutely with the difficult task – please keep fighting this fight for me when I am gone.

shirleyleeThank you to Shirley Lee. The late Shirley Demientieff was right when she looked at you and saw the rare strength and bravery it would take. Thank you for keeping your promises. Thank you for picking up that sign and continuing to fight.

Thank you to the people of Evansville/ Bettles, who do not let one of your own stand alone like a crazy person with a sign. Thank you for standing behind Shirley the very moment she got up. Thank you for always believing in each other. Those of us lucky enough to know we never stand alone are lucky indeed.

 

Thank you to Father Scott, Saint Matthew’s Episcopal church, and the Episcopal Diocese for remembering the moral of the story, not just the words.

Thank you to the mothers. Thank you Hazel Roberts, Carol Pease, Ida Vent, Veronica Frese, Mona Nollner. Mothers never stop fighting for their children. It is never too long, they are never too tired, and the way that mothers love their children is one of the most beautiful things in the world. And thank you for fighting for Kevin like he was your own son when Carol Pease was called away from this life.

fairbanksfourcrewThank you to the people who were brave enough to stand up and demand to be heard. Who risked their jobs, reputations, took time from their families, money from their pockets, risked their businesses, risked their safety, and stood up for the truth in a climate of deceit without regard to the cost or reward Thank you Misty Nickoli, Edgar Henry, Ricko DeWilde, Annette McCotter, Skye Malemute, Jody Hassel, Bryan Duszynski. There is something to be said for people who will do the right thing when it is hard and unpopular. For people who will stand there until they are seen or speak up until they are heard. Without you nothing changes.

BillFilingThank you Bill Oberly of the Alaska Innocence Project. I am not sure we could find the right words to express the gratitude we feel toward you. When we reach the end of this journey, this specific journey toward justice and the end of our personal journeys, your decision to step forward and advocate for the forgotten innocent will be one of the most memorable moments we have ever encountered. It is one thing to fight for a brother, son, or friend. It is another thing entirely to take up the plight of strangers. It was your voice and yours alone inside the legal community that cried out for justice, and it was your voice that others joined.

To the entire legal team from Dorsey and Whitney – Bob Bundy, Kate Demarest, Jahna Lindemuth, Mike Grisham, and Office of Public Advocacy attorneys Whitney Glover and Rick Allen, thank you. You put on an extraordinarily passionate, articulate, painstakingly organized, well-executed case. Imagine if you can what it feels like to watch people with power take what they want, in this case human lives, people’s children. Imagine how utterly abandoned and betrayed so many people, most of them kids, felt in 1997. Like they were invisible. Like a bad dream when you scream and scream but no one can hear you. And then you saw them, you heard them, and you rose up against a injustice that long seemed insurmountable, and you prevailed. And that is an important word, because you need to know that we already believe you won.

Thank you Bill Holmes. We hope you can find redemption for the many bad things you have done, and we are grateful that you told the truth. We hope it is the first step of many toward a more righteous life.

Thank you Scott Davison. Your bravery is humbling, your honesty against the odds is admirable.

Thank you Matt Ellsworth. We were really rooting for you to speak the truth, and are glad you did.

Thank you Tom Bole. You followed a higher code than any technicality of man.

Thank you Lisa Smith and Angie Black. We know how much work the paralegals do!

Thank you Troopers Gallen and McPherron. You served and protected the people of Alaska in the courtroom with your loyalty to justice and the truth.

Thank you to everyone who spoke up and told the truth.

Thank you Aaron ring, Jeff O’Bryant, Adrienne Bachman, Jason Gazewood, Jim Geier, and Jason Wallace. Your actions against justice have reminded us how truly valuable it is, and have inspired many to fight for it.

The courtroom at 101 Lacey Street in Fairbanks, Alaska is only a building. Stone and wood, metal and mortar, built by people, and only as permanent as its makers, which isn’t very. Sometimes there is no justice in a court of man. We cannot know what the decision of the court will be, we can only know that there is a higher order to the universe, and that the words and decisions that come from that building are ever the words and decisions of mortal men. Justice prevails in the end, and our job is simply to do our best and understand that it will come in its time.

For today we will not dwell on the past or the future, but will celebrate the day and those who brought it about. Today, parties rested their case in the first petition for post-conviction relief based on actual innocence to result in a evidentiary hearing in Alaska’s history. That is progress, and above all else, we are thankful to those who brought it about.

Day 23 – Jim Geier Returns to the Courtroom

Jim Geier was instrumental in the arrest and conviction of the Fairbanks Four. When he returned to the courtroom it was clear he was no longer the rookie cop and lackey of Aaron Ring. He had been promoted. He came into court with the title of lead investigator for the Fairbanks Police Department. And he was there to discuss the case that made his career, and ruined innumerable lives.

Geier testified that he was patient, respectful, and nice to the witnesses he interviewed. Cue tape of 14-year-old Shara David crying.

“I’m sorry I am crying,” she said between sobs, “I want my mom, please.”

“Get a hold of yourself,” Geier barked back at the little girl.

And so it went….

Geier justified keeping a murder confession from the actual perpetrators under wraps because, he said, he “just assumed it was on the internet.” Ugh.

In an attempt to defend the boot print exhibit used in the original trials, a piece of non-science created bu Geier, another cop, and a prosecutor, an exhibit which has been called “shocking,” “reprehensible,” “deliberately misleading,” ” not science,” and a host of other obvious things a scientist would say about not-science presented as science and used to run lives. The exhibit, which was used to convince jurors there was a match between the wounds on Hartman’s face and George Freese’s boot, was compared to one of those 3-D optical illusion posters.

“I hate to give this analogy, but they sell photographs, or posters, that you’re supposed to see a dolphin in, but you don’t notice it till you look at it for a long time and then there’s the dolphin,” Geier said. “Well, that was those tread marks.”

And indeed, the exhibit was an optical illusion. But the outcome was not that the onlooker saw a surprise dolphin. The outcome was that people were sent to jail as kids for a crime they did not commit. The outcome was that people died. Even after eighteen years to think it through, the gravity of that outcome remains entirely lost on Geier.

The day was long, and this post could be equally long, but the reality is that nothing very important was said. Jim Geier, in the face of mountains of facts and actual science, defended the “science” of pretending something is true because you want it to be. The sad truth is that the men most responsible for the harm done here are too afraid to truly look behind them at what was left in the wake of their misguided zealotry.

“I hate to give this analogy, but they sell photographs, or posters, that you’re supposed to see a dolphin in, but you don’t notice it till you look at it for a long time and then there’s the dolphin,” Geier said. “Well, that was those tread marks.”

Day 22 – The Science of Ignoring Science

The majority of the proceedings on the twenty-second day of proceedings in the Fairbanks Four centered around the testimony of Trooper Lance Dahlke.

scienceisbadDahlke was introduced as a witness to attack the credibility of the Alaska State Troopers who handled the investigation into the original case and testified that their investigation, conducted under the supervision of Adrienne Bachman, and ultimately testified that their investigation supported the innocence of the Fairbanks Four. Their testimony was a huge blow to the State’s case. The troopers were the state’s own investigators and they not only testified to the defects in the original case, that their investigation supported the innocence of the Fairbanks Four, guilt of the others named, improbability of the original eye witnesses testimony being correct, but also implicated their own supervisor and State prosecutor Adrienne Bachman in misconduct during their investigation. Some time into their investigation, as it became clear to Bachman that they were not going to produce a conclusion in her favor she allegedly terminated the investigation. In apparent anticipation of the trooper’s damning testimony the prosecutors brought in Dahlke to review the work of the troopers.

So, why would Dahlke be the right man for the job? He does not seem like a corrupt man, just one with a morally insurmountable bias. Dahlke was the trooper who investigated and ultimately arranged for considerable leniency in the murders Jason Wallace committed. As such, Dahlke certainly has a vested interest in confirming his original conclusion – that Wallace was a one-time offender whose crime was largely circumstantial and who was a candidate for immunity and leniency. In all reality, it was a terrible call, and that was painfully obvious as the Dahlke testimony continued. Dahlke read portions of Walalce’s interrogation when he flattered the trooper transparently

“I have never trusted anyone in my life, but I trust you. I look into your eyes and see a good man, God is telling me to trust you,” Wallace dripped.

The investigator described driving Wallace to the place where he disposed of the hammer used to kill unarmed friend Teacka Bacote. Wallace, he said, pointed to the snow bank, and the bloody hammer was retrieved. Dahlke testified that he then took Wallace out for McDonald’s, as he knew Wallace would be going to prison and not getting a burger for a long time. Um…..wow. You know who will never have another burger ever again? All of the people who Wallace killed. It is truly unthinkable that a serial killer was rewarded with a happy meal for guiding investigators to the bloody hammer he used to kill a woman.

And as for the hammer, Bachman lead Dahlke down a line of questioning that ultimately led to the trooper justifying the hammer as a murder weapon. Petitioner’s attorneys have referenced the murder of Bacote as unnecessarily brutal. But, Dahlke argued, it made sense for Wallace to not use the .40 caliber gun intended for the murder but the hammer, “because it would be quieter in the fully occupied apartment complex.” You know, the one fully occupied with human beings Wallace attempted to burn alive a few hours later. Not only is there not rationale for killing an unarmed woman with a hammer, we will state the obvious: gunshots make noise, but so do the screams of a woman who wakes up to a fatal hammer attack.

It is not surprising that those who worked closely with Wallace were so persuaded by him, perhaps even fond of him. It is because Wallace moved them around like human objects. That is his game. Wallace is a high functioning and manipulative psychopath who manipulated the investigators he was working with in 2002 into providing him very lenient prosecution, immunity, and all manner of favorable treatment. His co-defendant, who killed two adult male drug dealers, received a double life sentence with no chance of parole. Wallace, who killed an unarmed woman with a hammer, stabbed a friend with a screwdriver before returning to the woman’s corpse to set it ablaze in a fully occupied apartment building, and then boarded a plane bound for a campground where he planned to kill a man, woman, and eight year old little girl, may be eligible for release as early as 2025 due to the investigator’s judgement that he was trustworthy. He provided testimony against his codefendant and was handsomely rewarded. The notion that he killed John Hartman, likely killed Mahogany Davis, and threatened to kill several others, demonstrates that Wallace is the most dangerous kind of offender and calls into question the judgment of the officers who judged him rehabilitatable. Dahlke was one of those men.

So…now it is time to use one of Bachman’s favorite terms correctly. Dahlke was very prone to what is called confirmation bias. That is, Dahlke has a desire to confirm his original judgment, and with that bias is likely to seek information that confirms his theory and ignore information which contradicts it. Which is why Dahlke was an obvious yet very inappropriate choice for the unnecessary double-check of the troopers who made the state mad.

What did Dahlke find? One planted but irrelevant ten-dollar bill and “dirt” that labs confirmed was not only irrelevant, but not actually dirt.

Marvin Roberts car was taken apart and tested six ways to Sunday in 1997 and 1998, and then again in 2001. Cold case troopers looked at it again in 2013 and 2014. And then, Adrienne Bachman and Jim Geier, the prosecutor tasked with upholding the convictions and one of the primary detectives who achieved them, led Lance Dahlke back to the car. There, in plain sight, apparently invisible in all previous photographs and inspections, was a ten-dollar bill, and Dahlke “found” it. This was a transparent and pathetic attempt at evidence planting and we are confident that he ten-dollar bill will some day be an important exhibit….in the investigation into the misconduct of Geier and Bachman. While Dahlke was on the stand Bachman pointed to original testimony that John Hartman’s mother had given the boy a ten-dollar bill on the day he was killed. She failed to mention, or perhaps did not realize, that Hartman took the ten-dollar bill to McDonalds and a corner store. The ten-dollar bill was relevant only in an exhibition of how desperately far the state will go. The discovery of the ten-dollar bill was also meant to discredit the work of the troopers, insinuating that they should have found it. Had it been there, we imagine they would have.

The next portion of Dahlke’s testimony was even stranger. Dahlke also testified that when he examined John Hartman’s pants he saw dirt. No previous investigators, nor the troopers currently assigned, had ever seen the dirt in the photographs. But Dahlke felt certain that there was dirt visible in the photos of the young victim’s pants. Dahlke also saw, under eighteen years of dust, markings on the hood of Marvin Robert’s car that he believed matched the corduroy pattern of John Hartman’s pants. He testified that he saw these things, the other two troopers did not, and that they were not willing to send the car hood and pants to a lab for trace soil matching forensic testing. Ostensibly, this testimony was meant to hint that there may be missed physical evidence, and that the cold case troopers ignored that. But the train of argument fell apart in a rather complete fashion when the petitioners revealed that the hood and the pants had indeed been tested. The “dirt” Dahlke saw on the pants? Not dirt, the lab concluded, just a discoloration in the blue pants because of wear. It did not match the dirt on the car because it was not dirt. There was, of course, no new physical evidence linking the Fairbanks Four to the Hartman crime, just as there has never been physical evidence, because they are innocent.

sciencedenialBachman argued against the admission of the lab results from the test she herself had ordered. The state does not want science in the courtroom when the forensics of police officer’s imaginations are available. Not a new strategy, just a crappy one.

Previous to his testimony, Dahlke had not seen the lab report. It was a strange and sad scene, and left the impression that the state had encouraged and validated Dahlke’s theory to strengthen his testimony but withheld the forensics from him. In all, it was just another wasted day. And Dahlke did not come off like a bad guy. He came off like a guy who is easily manipulated by people like Jason Wallace or Aaron Ring, and had been used by Bachman in a rather pathetic attempt to dodge actual science and replace it will contaminated and biased theory.

And that is the science of pretending there is no science.

And that is the art of pretending that killing a woman with a hammer is okay, if the person talks nice afterward.

Days 20 and 21 – Aaron Ring Returns to Court in Fairbanks Four Case

Days 20 and 21

ring, aaron on standAaron Ring was the star witness in two days of testimony characterized by a long cross-examination heavy on video and audio from the original case.

Ring, the lead detective during the original investigation, has come under severe scrutiny during the hearings in the proceedings the Fairbanks Four hope will lead to their exoneration. A former FBI agent testified that Ring used improper interrogation techniques and failed to investigate the murder properly. Two cold case Alaska State troopers who investigated directly under the prosecutor Adrienne Bachman turned on the state and provided damning testimony. The troopers criticized ring’s work as well, and were especially critical of the aggressive prolonged interrogations of alibi witnesses. The three weeks that preceded Ring’s testimony not only undermined his original work but painted a picture of an investigation so off track that it reinforced the long-held belief by Fairbanks Four supporters that the wrongful conviction was a result of misconduct, fraud, and corruption as opposed to error.

Ring took the stand to defend his work. He testified that he remained confident in the quality of the investigation, and that he was a calm and patient man who kept a respectful demeanor while questioning suspects or witnesses. He reiterated that he was sure he had the right people, based on the information he gained in interrogation, and specific clues. Eugene Vent, he reminded the court, admitted to having gum. An unopened pack of gum was also found at the crime scene. Ring admitted to using “portions” of the Reid Method, and generally insisted that his demeanor had been nonthreatening and that the children being interviewed had supplied him the information.

ring, aaron 2015The cross-examination of Aaron Ring was methodical and almost painful to watch. Cross-examination followed the case in chronological order and walked through Ring’s participation in the investigation from the beginning moments through the eventual convictions of the men. It was death by a thousand cuts, as Dorsey and Whitney attorney Jahna Lindemuth painstakingly revealed one inconsistency after another – the officer’s statements of his qualifications or training versus reality, his recounting of order versus the record, the hours long interviews he admitted to and witnesses testified to versus the recordings that sometimes spanned only minutes, and aggressive questioning of how Ring came to be so certain.

Ring came under relentless questioning regarding his misrepresentation of the physical evidence in order to achieve an indictment in the case. He attempted to defend his false grand jury testimony, during which he testified that there was physical evidence linking the four to the crime. It was one of many attacks regarding Ring’s false characterization of evidence in the case.

“We saw the match,” he said, insinuating that his belief there was a match between wounds and footwear was itself physical evidence.

“Yeah, but there are forensics to back that,” Lindemuth countered. “And there were no forensics on the sexual assault yet either were there?”

“Uh..there had been a sexual assault exam and I think there was findings,” Ring answered.

“There were no forensics. And you said, ‘forensics.'”

But perhaps most damningly, audio of the actual interrogations which provided a sharp contrast against the calm demeanor and subject-directed interviews Ring had described. In the audio Ring can be heard yelling at witnesses, threatening them with arrest, demanding that they not interrupt him, that they agree with him, and so on. The audiotapes verified the accounts given by the now-adult alibi witnesses that they were threatened and harassed.

Lindemuth played interviews with three teenage girls, questioned alone and without their parents present. Audio revealed what these now grown women testified to earlier in the trial – that they experienced threatening and terrifying accusatory interrogation performed on children. It confirmed the testimony of the FBI agent and Alaska State Troopers. In fact, the only witness who seemed to think Aaron Ring was calm, investigated appropriately, or professional was Aaron Ring.

Many of the young people who were interviewed during the original case, now on the cusp of middle age with teenage children of their own, sat in the gallery of the courtroom during Ring’s testimony. If he recognized them from the witness stand or had any grasp on the impact he had on their lives, his face did not betray it.

timeschanging“I spent more than half of my life now thinking about that man, having the bad dreams, and the hard memories of this man,” one of the alibi witnesses said. “And he was just a man. Not a good man, but just a man.  I have been afraid for, what, eighteen years? Afraid of seeing him again. So I kept wondering why I wasn’t scared after all when he walked in. And I think it’s because I am an adult now. I thought back then I was grown, but I was a little girl then. To hear the tapes I didn’t feel like this happened to me, I felt like it happened to a little kid because it did.  And we cannot allow people in power to do this to our kids. It was good to see him, because I think all I wanted was to see him when he didn’t have power over me. It’s not a little girl and a police officer. It’s a strong woman and a weak man. I have the power now.”

State of Alaska Conspires With Serial Killer. Gross.

Wallace, JasonJason Wallace is the man whom a litany of witnesses have testified in the last weeks is actually responsible for the brutal 1997 stomping death of fifteen-year-old Jonathan Hartman. Many, including fellow killer and crime partner William Holmes, along with Wallace’s own public defender, and the Alaska State Troopers who investigated the case following accusations of wrongful conviction, have fingered Jason Wallace as the aggressor in the unprovoked fatal assault that left one child dead and a community in an uproar. Four other men, known as the Fairbanks Four, have spent the last eighteen years in prison for the crime. The four have maintained their innocence even in the face of plea deals and offers of parole, and with the help of the Alaska Innocence Project were able to begin an extremely robust case a few weeks ago arguing for their innocence and the guilt of another group of men. Jason Wallace testified during the 19th and 20th day of proceedings.

Despite the incredible evidence of their innocence, and in the face of incredible public outcry, the State of Alaska continues to fight to uphold the convictions at all costs. In the most controversial and despicable strategic move yet the State of Alaska granted immunity to Jason Wallace in exchange for his testimony. Unlike William Holmes, who was given a lie detector to prove he was telling the truth about killing Hartman (which he of course passed) or Marvin Roberts who was given a lie detector to prove he as telling the truth about his innocence (which he of course passed), Wallace was not given a lie detector test, not one witness corroborated his testimony, and there has been no indication that the truth was ever something the State of Alaska wanted from Wallace. Instead, Wallace was brought in to lie, and lie he did. Even the immunity deal itself demonstrates that the State of Alaska knows Wallace killed Hartman. An innocent man would not need immunity against prosecution of a murder in order to discuss it. Without the immunity, Wallace previously plead the 5th, and refused to answer questions

We predicted Wallace’s testimony and the circumstances that led up to it the day we learned he would testify. It is getting wearisome to be right about such terrible things. Wallace did exactly what we predicted he would do, but with less skill than we feared, and more show-boating of his deranged mind than we expected.

Jason Wallace sauntered into the courtroom in a gray suit, a purple button-up shirt, and a garish bow tie, in an immediate contrast in demeanor and appearance to the Fairbanks Four, who were not allowed to wear street clothes from the jail but arrived in prison uniforms and changed into modest white shirts immediately before their testimony. It was clear from the moment he entered the court room that Wallace was enjoying the perks of being a state witness.

Wallace took the stand, and special prosecutor Adrienne Bachman, who stated that she had “no idea” what Wallace would testify and denied all accusations of having negotiated his testimony and immunity below board, opened Wallace’s questioning with an affected speech on the importance of telling the truth.

“You have nothing to lose here unless you provide false testimony. Those are the rules. If you provide false testimony you can be prosecuted for the false testimony,” she said.

Wallace smiled, looked back at her, and said “Okay.”

Wallace had plenty reasons to smile. His testimony guaranteed he would never be prosecuted for killing John Hartman, despite nearly a dozen witnesses whose testimony implicated him in the crime, including one fellow participant and four individuals he is reported to have independently confessed to. And the chances of the same entity that granted him immunity for his lies attacking him for those lies is slim at best, and Wallace knew all of that as he took the stand smiling. Wallace was in comfortable territory.

The convicted killer in the fancy suit and bow tie brought with him into the courtroom a long history of manipulating the system for personal gain – to achieve immunity, intimidate those around him, and a criminal history so disturbing but clinically predictable that any armchair psychologist could diagnose him as psychopathic.

psychopath1Psychopaths have defective emotional ranges – they do not experience normal levels of guilt, shame, or fear. They also do not attach to or relate to other human beings in a normal fashion. Psychopaths experience very transitory and self-serving attachments and tend to look at human beings as objects and therefore can engage in extreme violence without emotional upset and in fact may enjoy such acts. Research consistently demonstrates that psychopaths are often participants in instrumental (calculated) violence as opposed to impulsive violence, and are far more likely than a typical offender to re-offend, and contrary to popular belief psychopaths are very likely to participate in group violence – typically as ringleaders. Participation in group violence allows psychopaths to defer blame, and provides another set of ready victims, as psychopaths enjoy exercising control. Psychopaths are sophisticated manipulators. Jason Wallace’s entire biography and criminal history indicates that he is a psychopath, and indeed his contrived testimony, odd demeanor, and apparent enjoyment of the process further indicate that he is indeed a psychopath and that the State of Alaska has very willingly made him a partner in an effort to commit the continued crime of wrongful imprisonment of the Fairbanks Four.

Wallace took the stand and proceeded to deny knowing anyone who testified against him and knowing anything about the Hartman murder. According to Wallace, he did not know any of the people who testified against or about him. He claimed he did not know and had never heard of Scott Davison or Matt Ellsworth, and even denied knowing his own attorney investigator. Wallace did not admit a relationship to anyone identified from his past against him besides his former co-defendant William Holmes. Wallace testified that he had never heard of the Hartman murder despite it being one of the highest profiles crimes in the community he lived in, until he was accused of it some two years ago. Wallace insisted that every witness who implicated him was lying and that he alone was telling the truth.

The good news about the Wallace testimony is that Wallace did not tell clever lies. His testimony was so dishonest that it was more a study in the psychology of a depraved killer and an equally sick justice system than it was information relevant to proceedings.

Under cross-examination by Robert Bundy, probono attorney with international firm Dorsey and Whitney, Wallace was defiant, and consistently threw out ten-dollar words confidently but with absolute disregard to their meaning. He reiterated that he was a witness for the state because he “cannot walk up here upon my volition.” When the petitioner’s attorneys brought up that Wallace had invoked his right against self-incrimination and refused to cooperate without immunity, Wallace responded that was because “you (Bundy) are doing, and all your constituents will, make me look like a terrible person.” Yet he said it all with the animated confidence of a person who cannot feel remorse nor grasp his own short comings. Jason Wallace barely faltered because unlike a normal person psychopaths do not experience the shame and fear associated with lying.

Wallace’s swagger and demeanor were striking. He smiled and giggled, scoffed and performed. As cross-examination threatened his composure a few times he looked toward his attorney Jason Gazewood as an actor asking a director for a line.

When Bundy confronted Wallace with inconsistencies in his stories (and there were many – from denying a car accident and previous arrests to lies about high school attendance), Wallace’s confidence faded some.

Bundy confronted him with the details of one of is brutal crimes – “Teacka was sleeping when you entered her house, wasn’t she? And then you hit her in the head with a hammer, again and again, didn’t you?”

Wallace simply answered an unemotional, “Yes.”

Cross-examination underscored the obvious – Jason Wallace’s testimony was false, and just like in his previous calculated immunity deals, his testimony was created simply for his own personal gain without regard to anyone or anything else. Cross established that Wallace struck his first immunity deals under false pretenses, pretending to be worried about his then-wife, and that those immunity deals protected him from prosecution in arson, conspiracy to commit murder, including the murder of an eight year old little girl, attempted murder, and more, in exchange for providing testimony favorable to the state. The state would not allow Wallace to answer whether or not he had been promised their support in his parole efforts, although it is widely known that this level of cooperation with state officials could win him the earliest possible parole date of 2025. It was clear that Wallace brokered immunity deals after he brutally killed a woman with a hammer, stabbed a man with a screwdriver, started a full apartment complex on fire, and was arrested on his way to kill an entire family. Those immunity deals all led to the outcome Wallace wanted – the potential for early parole. Despite having committed murders in his twenties that should surely see a person sentenced to life, Wallace could see parole at 45 years old. A conviction in the Hartman murder would destroy any hope of Wallace ever being released, and even strong implications of guilt could interfere with his parole. As Bundy continued to ask questions a picture emerged of Wallace negotiating yet another immunity deal to not only avoid consequences but achieve early parole.

We cannot overstate how incredibly disgusting this all is. John Hartman and his family deserve vastly more respect than for the possibility of Wallace’s conviction to be tossed aside as if it were not more significant than a used tissue. Those who bravely came forward to testify against Wallace ought to be able to live out their lives knowing he will never get out of prison,The State of Alaska has thrown away any regard for the human beings involved in this case with as much regard as Wallace showed when he killed a child, a woman, a friend, and plotted to kill a family. It is hard to imagine a more disturbed system or person than the Alaska justice system and Jason Wallace as they were shown in court. And at the end of the day, Jason Wallace is what he is. If someone sets a rabid dog loose in a playground the dog is not to blame for what comes next. The one holding the leash, the one who knows better, the one who wanted this pet – that is the State of Alaska, and they are more responsible for what comes next out of Wallace than even he is, because they have seen his nature and chose to make the deal.

An action as depraved as the one seen in Alaska courts through the immunity deal with Wallace deserves to be responded to. We will end this post with a series of promises, and assure you we will keep them all.

  • We will see than any elected official who has accountability in this decision does not see re-election, with special attention to Governor Bill Walker who appears to have forgotten entirely that he would not be Governor without the Native vote.
  • We will fight until we prevail to see that Jason Wallace does not get any form of early release. We will do everything we can to see the illegal, disgusting immunity deal revoked and justice for John Hartman. We will see Wallace prosecuted for perjury.
  • We will stand up for the witnesses who fear for their lives, and to whom the state through this immunity action very resoundingly refused to safeguard. Testifying against a man who killed a child is THE RIGHT THING TO DO. We will see that you do not come to harm for doing the right thing.
  • We will ensure the department of law takes action to investigate the conduct of the attorneys, prosecutors, elected officials, attorney general, Alaska Department of law, and every individual from the original case and the present case who behaved in violation of the law or their respective codes of conduct. We will see that those people are held accountable to the fullest extent possible. To be clear, we are talking about Aaron Ring, Jim Geier, Jeff O’Bryant, Scott Mattern, Adrienne Bachman, Jason Gazewood, and anyone who assisted them. We will hold you accountable.Someday, when other professionals consider engaging in similar conduct, you will be the cautionary tale.
  • If it takes us 18 more years, and our children 18 more, and 18 more, and their children more years than we can fathom, we will correct this injustice and do what we can to stop the corruption that destroys lives, steals children, and goes unanswered. We will answer it. And we will not lose, because we raise our children to fight, and you raise yours to lie and hide.
  • We will love life. We will not be bitter, and we will not be angry. We will never let this kind of thing cast a shadow over us and in fact, we will love the light all the more for having glimpsed your darkness. And there, we will find gratitude for what injustice has shown us – the beauty of humanity and the importance of justice.

Day 19 – State Witness Stuns Courtroom, Backfires in Fairbanks Four Case

Day 19, October 30, 2015

Ellsworth, MattThe nineteenth day of proceedings in the Fairbanks Four bid for exoneration opened with the jaw-dropping testimony of witness Matt Ellsworth.

In 2011, Scott Davison came forward to the Innocence Project with information that altered the outlook for the Fairbanks Four. He reluctantly told a story of how in 1997, as a high school student, he and friend Matt Ellsworth were heading out of the Lathrop High School parking lot to ditch school and smoke pot in the bowling alley parking lot nearby. Jason Wallace, and acquaintance to both boys, jumped in the car. Once parked at the bowling alley, Davison said, Wallace held up a newspaper detailing the Hartman murder and told Davison and Ellsworth that he had killed Hartman.

Records indicate that as Davison entered adulthood he led a life troubled by addiction and frequent arrests for petty crimes. When the Alaska Innocence Project filed their post conviction relief filing with his testimony in it, he became the target of attacks by the State of Alaska, aimed at discrediting him through character assassination. To make matters worse, when Ellsworth was contacted by investigators he denied knowing Wallace or Davison, and claimed the events described by Davison simply never happened. This strengthened the attack on Davison The State of Alaska called Ellsworth to the stand to discredit the testimony of Scott Davison and Matt Ellsworth’s denial of the Davison narrative was expected to be a serious blow to Davison’s credibility. But there under oath, facing Marvin Roberts, a man who spent the last eighteen years in prison because of a lie, Matt Ellsworth decided to tell the truth.

When questioning came to the critical point – whether or not anything of note had ever happened while ditching school and smoking pot by the bowling alley – Ellsworth took a long pause, then finally spoke,

hardtruth“There is one time that stands out. “There was a story that led up to an event. A past, recent crime. A recent murder. A young caucasian boy who was beaten to death by….by…” Ellsworth took a long pause before finishing, “By Jason Wallace. He made statements referring to this crime, that he was involved. And he stated, I remember, if I find out that anybody – and I am paraphrasing – tells anyone else, then I’ll end their life…I’ll kill you…I would make sure the person doesn’t live.”

The flabbergasted state prosecutors tried to land on their feet, but it was evident that the Ellsworth testimony came as a complete shock. The demanded to know, over and over, why Ellsworth was changing his story, as he had previously told investigators who called on the phone that he knew nothing about it. Ellsworth admitted that he lied to the investigator who called, out of a desire to stay away from the issue, but mostly because he was scared for his life.

“I felt the need to say something. I am under oath in a court,” Ellsworth said.

When it came time for the petitioner’s attorneys to cross-examine Ellsworth one simply rose and said, “no further questions, your honor.”

Real-life courtroom moments like the Ellsworth testimony are uncommon and his under oath turnaround certainly stunned the attorneys as well as observers. It took tremendous courage to speak out about what he heard back in 1997. Witness after witness has expressed fear for their life and safety for testifying against Jason Wallace. The witnesses who knew Wallace are unified in their belief that he will retaliate against them, and that the State of Alaska will not protect them. Sadly, they are right about the latter point. Instead of dismissing charges against the Fairbanks Four and pursuing the prosecution of serial killer Jason Wallace with vigor, the State of Alaska granted him immunity, bought him a few new suits, dressed him up, and paraded around their star witness with no regard whatsoever to the people who will be in danger when their truly dangerous pet is set free.

In a move which we predicted, but still find entirely disgusting, the State of Alaska brought child-killer Jason Wallace to court not to be prosecuted, but as their new lap dog. For the sake of brevity, we will condense all of Wallace’s testimony to its own post you can read HERE.  But in a nutshell, Wallace denied knowing anyone, knowing anything, ever hearing of the Hartman murder, and insisted that despite a long line of credible and diverse witnesses whose testimony implicated him, they were all lying, and he alone was telling the truth.

Matt Ellsworth’s courage shone brightly. His honesty was the perfect contrast to Wallace’s incredible dishonesty, and the state’s witness ultimately strengthened the case for innocence greatly. Wherever you are Matt Ellsworth, thank you. Please do not feel afraid. There is a power greater, wiser, bigger than men like Jason Wallace, and you are in the hearts of many who have prayed these eighteen years for men like you to find their voice, and they will continue to ask for your protection and reward. You did a hard thing. A beautiful and decent hard thing, and we are glad we were there to see it.

Newsminer Day 19 Coverage

Day 18 – State Calls the Mother of Marvin Roberts, Brother of John Hartman

Day 18 – October 29, 2015

The State of Alaska called Hazel Roberts, the mother of accused Marvin Roberts, as the first witness of the day. In disjointed and wandering videotaped testimony aired earlier in the week, former Roberts acquaintance Margaretta Hoffman claimed that on the night John Hartman was killed she was at the Roberts home doing cocaine, getting drunk, and was ultimately part of a conspiracy to throw away shoes. Hoffman, a self-confessed user of methamphetamine and cocaine since 1993, provided testimony which did not comply with any testimony given by any others in the case. Hazel Roberts was called to the witness stand in response to the Hoffman claims and reiterated her original testimony, which matches those of the other household members and has been consistent from her first contact with police in 1997 through today. She knew Hoffman, Roberts said, and did hang out with her a few times, but not the night in question. None of the things Hoffman testified to happened. When a 19-year-old Marvin Roberts came home the night in question everyone was in bed, there was no remarkable entrance, no shoes thrown out, nothing but a quiet return. Marvin Roberts turned off the light above the stove and went to bed.

The testimony of Hazel Roberts was followed by Chris “Sean” Kelly, John Hartman’s brother. Although in earlier filings special prosecutor described Sean Kelly’s testimony as “words he could never forget,” and indicated some absolute proof would come from Kelly as to the guilt of the Fairbanks Four, his testimony was focused mostly on forgotten words, gaps, heartbreak, confusion.

KellyKelly took the stand dressed in gray, his clean-cut and angular face unmistakably similar to the pictures of victim John Hartman. Unlike Hartman, who has remained frozen at the entrance to adolescence in his death, the years were evident on Sean Kelly, who is no longer the lanky teen brother from the original case footage, but a middle-aged man.

Kelly testified that shortly after his brother’s death he was incarcerated at Fairbanks Correctional Center with the Fairbanks Four. According to Kelly, he approached Eugene Vent one night and confronted him. Kelly recalls Vent saying, “We didn’t know that was your little brother.” Kelly was unclear on any other words exchanged. To the clear frustration of Prosecutor Adrienne Bachman, he could not recall portions of earlier statements about the incident. Bachman alleged that Eugene Vent had made more incriminating confessional statements to Kelly.

“It didn’t go down like that, I wouldn’t…No, that’s….it’s not what I remember,” Kelly said.

“It would help that the truth comes out, no matter what. I would like some closure,” Kelly said in an interview after testimony.

After his testimony was complete Kelly discussed the process with reporter Stephanie Woodard. He said that testifying brings back the pain of his brother’s murder. He talked about his mother crying, this very specific and unforgettable cry, a bedside vigil for a beloved little brother who was so brutally attacked that footprints remained on his skin.

Chris “Sean” Kelly seems to still believe that the right men are in prison for his brother’s death. Petitioner’s attorney Whitney Glover attempted to open with condolences from her clients to Kelly, which he bristled at. After a long list evidence pointing toward the alternative suspects, Kelly countered, “well they’re not the ones sitting in jail for it.”

And if Kelly believes the right men are in prison, that is okay. None of us can possibly imagine what it would be like to live through what he has. He lost a baby brother at the hands of really horrible people who committed a disgusting awful unthinkable crime. The pain of losing a loved one to that kind of violence is beyond understanding. In his grief and pain he was assured by the people in power that his brother would get justice, that they had the right guys, and those guys would pay. It is only natural that he is attached to the story, it is how they made sense from something that does not make sense. There is a life path for him, he is on it, and if God sees fit to change Kelly’s mind he will. Until then, we hope advocates for the Fairbanks Four can see Kelly simply as a grieving man who suffered a serious loss, who is willing to face it down, remember his brother with honor, and a man who deserves our kindness.

For eighteen long years this case has never, despite the sincerest desires of the State of Alaska, “gone away.” For John Hartman’s family the violence that took their loved one remains splashed across headlines, a hot topic on social media, the subject of films. It must be extremely painful.

Injustice reaches across many lives and leaves much pain in its wake. It is time for the story of this injustice to end.