Arlo Olson, 1977-2017

ArloWe were deeply saddened to receive news of Arlo Olson’s passing and further disheartened to learn that he took his own life while in custody.

Arlo was the victim of a terribly dysfunctional justice system that did not take his humanity into account when arranging for a wrongful conviction, just as it did not consider ours. Today, it is his humanity alone that matters.

Arlo Olson struggled for nearly a lifetime with mental illness as well the addiction and behavioral issues that often follow in its wake. To the degree that his choices were his own in regards to our case, he was given forgiveness long ago. His last act toward the Fairbanks Four was one of bravery and honesty and it is that act we will choose to remember.

Arlo Olson had a family who loved him dearly. He was a son, a father, a brother, and there always was and always will be much more to his story than its interconnection to this case.

As survivors of systemized injustice we will continue to advocate for true justice, which includes the humane treatment of inmates and access to dignified and quality mental health services within our prison systems.

Our hearts are with the Olson family today, and we hope they receive an outpouring of love and support in this time of grief. Arlo is with his Creator now who knows the contents of his soul and will no doubt receive him with love beyond our understanding.

Rest in peace, Arlo.

 

 

Below is a memorial written byAdrienne B. who graciously shared it here. This friend of Arlo’s reveals a star-gazer and cook, and her words are stronger than ours:

 

My grandma Alma couldn’t say Arlo. Every time he’d cook her a meal, she’d say “Orville, you’re a real good cook. You should open a cafe and call it Orville’s.” He was very particular about his clothes, down to matching his hat to his shoelaces. I went to visit him in Valdez one summer when he was a supervisor for Peter Pan. When I showed up, he was wearing a large pink Alaska tourist themed sweatshirt and some highwater green pants with that really big eye smiling, childish grin. He had done his laundry the previous night and didn’t want to smell eau de fishy so he added a small bottle of bleach to his whites and his jeans. At least he separated them. He finished his shift and we ran into town to only be able to find Lee jeans and Hanes white tshirts with a wool flannel shirt. He went from being dressed like an old lady to an old man with suspenders the week I was there. Those little Phillipino ladies took him under their wing and helped him with his laundry and made sure he ate for the rest of the season. He liked cream in his tea and couldn’t wait go the fall time so he could watch the stars. Godspeed my friend. Those of you reading this that are feeling sad, I pray you too find your place of love and gratitude for being blessed with such a kind soul. He wouldn’t want you to be sad, that’s why he always made you feel important and loved. It’s and good day to celebrate that love. Rest assured from the Heavens above, his loved ones know his sissy Tass has her big brother to hold hands with and run in the tall grass by the river to visit grandpa Aggie and Grandma Marylene. The four of them I’m sure have stopped in to visit my grand alma and grandpa Roland. In good time, in good faith, God promises I too will join them. Until then, I’ll continue to look for them in the stars. Ill speak up about the stigma of mental illness, fight for fair treatment in the system for those suffering from their own minds and let the memory of his beautiful hands be a part it. He may no longer be here in flesh, but a part of him will continue to live through so many wonderful memories. Bless and be blessed my friends.

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State Prosecutor Bachman’s Astounding Interview With Indian Country Today

truthWe have been pleased to see the story of the Fairbanks Four debut onto various national media outlets, but have been perhaps most gratified to see the case appear on Indian Country Today. This story has universal meaning and all Native rights issues are, at their core, human rights issues. That said, history indicates that progress is rarely made on Native issues unless and until the indigenous people of America join forces. So, we have been especially pleased to know that the story of the Fairbanks Four is reaching across tribes. This story is new to most Native people only in its specifics. Mistreatment and dismissal at the hands of the American government is, of course, a very old and familiar story to people of all tribes.

Indian Country Today’s latest article on the Fairbanks Four case is an interview with state prosecutor Adrienne Bachman, who is responsible for heading the state’s review of and response to the recent Alaska Innocence Project filing. Nothing would please us more than to tell you that the window this interview provides into the state’s perspective gave us a hope that the state intends to lead a fair and balanced investigation in the interest of justice. However, in this interview Adrienne Bachman reminds us a great deal of her predecessors – the interview contains a few politically correct general statements and an awful lot of detailed statements which indicate that Adrienne Bachman stands firmly where Jeff O’Bryant stood before her – determined to uphold a prosecution through any means necessary. And the devil, as they say, is indeed in the details.

Read the interview for yourself HERE. Below, we would like to highlight some of the more fascinating lies it contains.

“All of the arguments currently made in the petition were made during the original trial, except the Holmes affidavit. Only the Holmes allegations are new.”

This particular statement is one of the most bold, baffling, and patently false of them all. The Alaska Innocence Project filing contained over 130 pages. Less than ten were dedicated to the Holmes confession. Some other highlights? The eyewitness expert who determined that the testimony of Arlo Olson was scientifically impossible. The causative instrument forensic specialist who debunked the state claim that George Frese’s footwear matched the victim’s injuries. The affidavits by half a dozen others, including one that outlines a detailed confession made by another of the five perpetrators Jason Wallace, and language which strongly infers that the contents of the sealed brief contain yet another confession. The statement that the only new allegations contained in the filing are contained in less than 10% is outrageous. We will hope for the best here and assume that perhaps the prosecutor was only able to read the first few pages on her month-long vacation. Read the entire AKIP filing for yourself HERE. Read about SOME of the additional new evidence HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE or even, HERE.

“The petition characterizes the original evidence, but a review of the actual trial testimony shows that there were many additional pieces of evidence that are never mentioned by either the petition or the newspaper articles that seem to form the basis for much of the public opinion that lingers about this case. Examples include the various admissions or confessions made by three of the four.”

Well, this is not so much a mischaracterization as it is an absolute lie. Bachman states here that an example of evidence that has never made it into the newspaper or the AKIP filing includes “various admissions or confessions made by three of the four.” The interrogations and police interviews can be read HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE and just in case you want to be sure you can find them in the press, take a look HERE and HERE.

Eugene Vent, after 11 hours of interrogation in total, made incriminating statements. Read about his take on that HERE. The method used to obtain the statements HERE. George Frese also made incriminating statements in the case, after hours of interrogation, and sandwiched between insistence on his innocence, a request to go home, and statements that he didn’t”actually remember any of that shit.” George’s statements were not allowed into trial after the court determined they were ILLEGALLY OBTAINED.

For readers who struggle as much as the prosecutor with counting in the single digits, that makes for TWO people who made highly questionable statements but certainly statements it would be reasonable to classify as “admissions or confessions.” Her assertion that she is in possession of three admissions is patently false.

“The state is committed to conducting a prompt, thorough and thoughtful investigation of the Holmes allegations. It is a top priority.”

Sigh. Here is a statement we WISH was true. In reality, the state waited almost a month into their 45 day response time to even begin work on this case, and in an initial interview with the Daily News Miner Bachman made it clear that her first priority in regards to the Fairbanks Four case was for the state to review the original case. You know, THEIR case, which is apparently quite unfamiliar to them. In her response to the AKIP filing Bachman made it clear that her actual first priority during the beginning of her review was her “long-standing” vacation plans. Don’t take our word for it, read all about that HERE.

No one on the jury thought there was a reasonable doubt about their guilt based on all of the evidence presented at trial.

The first jury to hear a case against George Frese ended in a hung jury.One juror, convinced the accusations were the result of a conspiracy, locked themselves in the bathroom and refused to come out. It has always seemed, to us, that juror had doubts.

 

The interviews of both men were fair and above board. The police did not supply the details of the beating, Mr. Vent did. He named his co-defendants as involved in the beating, not the police. As a further example, Eugene Vent told the police that he’d given [John Hartman] some gum. Since the police had not mentioned chewing gum, but did find a small pack at the scene, Mr. Vent’s own words told the world that he had been there – no matter how much he now attempts to back away from those statements.

Okay, she does know we can read, right? I am going to skip quoting anything related to gum from Eugene’s interrogation, and use a quote I find more suitable from Eugene while being interrogated: “I can’t believe what you’re saying right now.”

Like, really. I can’t believe what you’re saying right now. Sadly, that is not true. In 1997 being tricked and lied to by people meant to protect you and uphold justice seemed unbelievable. Today, it seems routine. Live and learn.

We would like to encourage all of you to read the interview with Bachman for yourself, and any and all of the case materials she refers to. We would further encourage you all to let your elected leaders know whether or not you think this case was handled properly in 1997, and whether or not much has changed since then. Although it would be possible to pick this interview apart line by line, we will leave off here with a quote from us, and a quote from someone far wiser.

At the end of the day, only one of two things can be true: either Bachman lacks the ability to read and understand the material that she is responsible for reviewing, or else she has a full grasp on the information and is choosing to lie. Neither is acceptable. We have said for the last sixteen years without abating that the State of Alaska has demonstrated a lack of ability and propensity toward dishonesty in this case that indicated it should be removed from their jurisdiction, handled by a federal agency, and that each indication of corruption, perjury, bribery, racism, and civil rights violation should be investigated thoroughly by a federal body as well. We think we have done a good job laying out our extensive reasons for taking that position; we would like to thank prosecutor Bachman for taking the time to do several press interviews that demonstrate state bias more effectively than we could ever hope to do on our own. – Fairbanks Four Blog, today, right now.
Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. – Isaiah 10: 1-2