How to Help

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  -Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Since we first launched this site more than 15,000 people have read its pages, and that number grows every single day.

We began this story by explaining that the truth itself is tremendously powerful. And it is. The truth is powerful because it cannot be untold, nor unheard. When good people hear the truth they are motivated to DO something. And we would like to call on every single one of you to do all that you can. Here is a list of ways that you can help. Perhaps you can only do one of them, some can do several, some will do all. We ask only that you do what you can.

The MOST IMPORTANT THING anyone, anywhere out there can do is to COME FORWARD. If you have information about this case, if you know someone who has information about this case, PLEASE, PLEASE, come forward. You can come forward on record and be eligible for the reward or come forward COMPLETELY anonymously. Some people have already come forward, but these four men need EVERYONE to come forward. No one wants to be a snitch, and no one wants to be afraid. But this is not snitching. Four innocent men are in prison. Even though many people have come forward the court has a very high requirement. Be courageous. Do what you hope someone would do for you. Make us proud, make your family proud, make yourself proud. To stay silent is to take the side of the oppressor. If you are silent now, who will speak for you when you are in need? Do the right thing, or encourage someone else to do the right thing. Call Bill Oberly of the Innocence Project with your information, however big or small, at 907-279-0454

1. SIGN A PETITION online HERE and in person if you get the chance. When we have enough signatures we will send this petition to every single entity and person we believe can help. Now that you are all warmed up, write a letter! Or a dozen!

2. MULTIPLY YOUR SIGNATURE Get as many people as you can to sign the petition! If each signer inspired ten of their friends to sign this petition we could have 10,000 signatures this week. You have a LOT of power, more than you think. Bring 10 people to the petition! You can easily do this by reposting a link to the petition on your Facebook, sending it out to your email contacts, and talking about this case with your friends.

3. SPREAD THE WORD in whatever way you can. We absolutely believe that the truth will set these men free. Truth has power – talk about this case. Write letters to the editor. Talk to your family, your friends, your children. Send people to this blog, tell them to like us on Facebook, tell them to watch this issue. Write an email to your favorite news programs and tell them to look into this case. This is about more than four men, this is about injustice and out power to change it. The truth has the power to change minds, lives, societies, the world. We have assembled a press kit you can copy and paste or print to send anywhere you like – find that HERE.

4. GIVE AWAY YOUR MONEY! Had to fit that in somehow. These are hard times financially for almost all of us. But if you can, give a little. Attend the fundraisers if you are local, donate online to Alaska Innocence Project HERE, give a million dollars, give one dollar, give a penny. It is a sad truth that legal work is so expensive as to be out of reach for most people, but it is the case. It is unfortunate that many informants are not motivated by the goodness of the deed but the size of the reward, but history tells us that is the case. Every single penny counts.

5. GIVE AWAY YOUR TIME! Speaking of things we all wish we had more of…..money and time are hard to give away because they are so powerful. If you can give any time, do. Five minutes for a conversation, two hours to sit at a booth, an hour in prayer, thirty minutes to write an email, etc. If you are an artist, consider donating your art. Any skill can be used to help – get creative. Track us down on Facebook (link on the side of this blog or just look up Free the Fairbanks Four) and tell us you would like to help. Trust me, we will take you up on it!!  Every single minute counts.

6. KEEP READING! If this story has not yet moved you to act, called your name, rung true, then keep reading and let time and truth do their work.

7. NEVER GIVE UP. No one can promise you that this will be a short fight, it may be very long. As one reader recently said, this may be a sad story, but it still has a chance at a happy ending. What we are doing right now is writing the ending. Stick around to see it, to make it!

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”  ~ Calvin Coolidge

Thank you. Every single one of you is proof that the world is full of people who, when given the chance, will stand up for what is right. What a nice thought.

An Injustice Anywhere…..The story of the Englewood Four, who were exonerated today!

In the mid-nineties, four young minority men were interrogated for hours upon hours in the rape and strangulation murder of a sex worker. After these hours of incredible pressure, they confessed. Nearly immediately after their interrogations the four voiced their innocence, and stood by it steadfastly for all the years to follow.

There was no physical evidence of any kind linking the four men to the crime scene, the victim, or each other.

Still, they were tried, convicted, and served nearly seventeen years for a rape and murder based upon the terrified statements of a few teenagers.

Beginning to sound familiar?

The reality is that the Fairbanks Four are not alone; far from it. Convictions without evidence based on false confessions from young people are sickeningly common. Our society is led to believe that our justice system is righteous, and as such would be eager to seek out the instances when people have been wrongfully convicted and set the record straight. Sadly, the noble pursuit of justice for justice’s sake is sickeningly uncommon.

The Englewood Four were blessed to have DNA evidence in their case which could eventually be linked to other offenders. When a re-testing of the DNA linked the semen at the crime scene to a serial rapist and murderer known in his neighborhood as “Manic,” WHO HAD BEEN PRESENT AT THE SCENE OF THE MURDER WHEN POLICE ARRIVED, any rational person would assume that the state attorney would push for exoneration of the Englewood Four. Instead, he fought to keep them behind bars. Hard.

The good news? Today, these four men were exonerated. It took a lot of work – YEARS of work. 70,000 signatures on a petition. Representation from the Innocence Project, the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, the Exoneration Project of the University of Chicago Law School AND Valorem Law Group. But, today, their lives changed. Not one moment of the seventeen years that were stolen from them can be returned. Not one birthday, not one hug, not one Christmas present, not one quiet cup of coffee, none of the weddings or funerals they missed. Time can be stolen, but not returned. There is no restitution on this Earth to give back to these men what was taken from them.

The only silver lining in these heartbreaking cases – The Fairbanks Four, the Englewood Four, and the thousands of others like them – is that perhaps through their stories justice will grow stronger, corruption will weaken, and someday the most important factor in criminal court will be whether or not a citizen has committed a crime, not the designs of power-hungry or deluded men in power, not the color of their skin, their age, or the depth of their terror. Perhaps the difficult road that the Englewood Four walked will help to clear the way for the Fairbanks Four and many more innocent people.

Let us not be discouraged by the scope of injustice, let knowledge of that feed our determination to overturn it. Let us be joyful today for the exoneration of Vincent Thames, Terrill Swift, Harold Richardson and Michael Saunders, and inspired by their success.

One thing they did well was spread the word and gather petition signatures. Help the Fairbanks Four by signing their petition HERE and asking your friends to do the same.

Below is an excerpt of the Innocence Project press release and a few articles on the Englewood Four:

“Saunders, Richardson, Thames and Swift have spent most of their adult lives in prison. They were between the ages of 15 and 18 when they arrested. Based on false confessions and without a shred of physical evidence, they were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 30-40 years in prison. Their cases, and others in Cook County, reveal a dangerous pattern of injustice based on false confessions. The Innocence Project is calling on Cook County to conduct a review of all cases involving juvenile confessions. In the past four months, ten people have been exonerated through DNA testing in Illinois after being unjustly convicted based on confessions they gave as teenagers.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-englewood-four-hearing-20120118,0,6722720.story

http://www.suntimes.com/news/crime/10069019-418/four-englewood-men-wont-be-retried-for-1994-rape-and-murder.html

A Letter from a Daughter to her Father

The case of the Fairbanks Four is about investigation, interrogation, mass information, misinformation, DNA, rather lack thereof, words and words, pages and pages, testimonies and ablibis, truths, and lies. All manner of things disappointing and wicked.

Sometimes to look at it is beyond exhausting and even their most ardent supporters grow weary. And then, some kind of blessing arrives, some kind of reminder of what this is really about. It’s about everyday people who have suffered an injustice having the courage to stand up for themselves. Below is a letter from George’s daughter, who was a few weeks shy of her third birthday when they broke into her home and took away her dad. If she can remain faithful and determined, certainly so can we.

My Dad, George Frese.
You left when I was a baby, and now when you come back, I’m a woman. You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but we have all the time we need to get to know each other again. I may not remember much about having a dad, but we can make new memories and you can always be there for me again. I miss you every day, I wish you were here. But you’re not. And you’re fighting your way home to be my dad again. I fight for your justice even though I know its dangerous to do so. MY DAD IS INNOCENT! Love you lots, whatever you say.
Love,
Your babygirl, Tiliisia Sherrine!!!

She added,

I miss my dad so much, and people just don’t how much I miss him. On the outside I’m happy and fighting for him, while on the inside I’m crying and screaming for him to come home, and wishing he would be here. My dad was in my life once, I’m pretty sure he can be there for me again. :’)

Here is a picture of George from about 1993, a few years before Tiliisia was born, and four years before he would be arrested for murder.

People who know him will tell you he was funny. Really, really funny. And a sweet guy. A nice guy, a gentle soul. They will also tell you that he had a child very young, but loved her SO very much and was really a dedicated father. It is a heartbreak that this injustice took a father away from his daughter, but she has grown into a strong girl and a fighter!

And, here she is at one of our last fundraisers, counting up donations that will fund the fight to bring her father home!

And on that note…….there IS a lot you can do to help. Spread, spread, spread the word! The number of supporters these guys have grows every day. There will come a critical point where the combined voices are too loud to be ignored.

Attend fundraisers if you are in the Fairbanks area. We plan to have our next one near North American time.

Donate online to Alaska Innocence Project HERE

You can donate miles or dollars to ease the cost of travel.

And REMEMBER….there are people in Fairbanks that have information about this case and about alternate suspects. No matter how small your information may seem, email your tips in to info@alaskainnocence.org or call 907-279-0454.

We have all heard whispers and rumors throughout the years – next time, ask a few questions. Rack your mind. If you have any information, email or call it in!!

There is an always-growing reward for information that leads to the exoneration of these young men.

The Beginning of Our Story

It is hard to introduce a story so specific yet universal, so young, yet so old. It is not enough to say that this is a blog about four young Native men wrongfully convicted of a brutal murder.

It is not enough to say that this blog is about racism or hate, or faith or hope. This is the story of Alaska. Of America. A story of injustice, a plea for help, for understanding, and above all a story of faith in the power of stories, of the truth. Writing this blog is an act of faith, a testimony to the power of the truth, spoken, read. We may not be experts in journalism, in law, or many other things. But the contributors here come from Alaska, from a culture that has a long tradition of storytelling, and a belief that the truth holds incredible power. This is a long story, and we will have to tell it the old way, the slow way, in pieces as they come.

In telling this story we hope to achieve one small justice for four men, but also to contribute to building justice for all Native people. For all people. In the weeks and months to come we will introduce a brutal murder, a shocking investigation, and the stories of heartbreak, determination, and hope from many people that have all sprung from one terrible night.