“I praise the ones who persevere in seeking justice through the law. I caution there are those who felt abandoned and betrayed by what they saw. Some stood in halls of silence, with icy hints of violence, when they went to seek justice from the law.” – Dar Williams, from the song “Write This Number Down.”
This morning the State of Alaska Court of Appeals has ruled that Eugene Vent should receive a new hearing based on his claim of ineffective counsel. The ruling comes just two short days after Eugene was featured on KTUU’s 49th Report: The Fairbanks Four.
Eugene had argued in an appeal that his attorney was ineffective in arguing to allow an expert in false confessions and the Reid Method of interrogation to testify at trial. (Read about Eugene’s interrogation HERE and the Reid Method HERE) His appeal was denied when it was presented in Fairbanks Superior Court to Judge Ben Esch. The Alaska Court of Appeals ruled today that judge Esch erred in making that ruling, and cautioned that the denial created the “appearance of partiality.”
We agree. Big time. Judicial conduct in the cases of the Fairbanks Four has created the appearance of partiality. It has contained actual partiality toward the prosecution, and conduct which unbecoming of any public servant or person on God’s Earth, and sometimes conduct which reaches far beyond partiality into corruption. (Read about some concerning conduct HERE)
The ruling is welcome news, and a step in the right direction. We caution all that it is one small step, but in the right direction. It is also a reminder why we fight INSIDE the justice system even though we have seen it fail. The justice system is ours. It is as imperfect as we are, as vulnerable, as corrupt, as sinful. But it is also just as capable grace. Peppered amongst the worst and most biased rulings in this case have always been rulings that contained strength and independence of intellect.
We have said many times over, echoing Martin Luther King, that we know the moral arc of the universe to be long, but also that it bends toward justice. Someday, maybe in a series of events that begins with today’s ruling, and maybe not, our system will bend toward justice in the case of the Fairbanks Four. It will bend toward justice because of the goodness of people. People like all of you. Reporters like Brian O’Donoghue, Rhonda McBride, Steve MacDonald – members of the press who remember their calling as bearers of the truth. It bends because of people like you who have given time in prayer, work, donated a dollar, and hour, or a thousands of each. The list of names would be so long that I could never write it out. Long enough to change the moral direction of our community and court system. So, thank you, all of you, for today’s ruling.
At the conclusion of the ruling the court states that: