Day 19, October 30, 2015
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,
“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.