The “Secret Confession” Alaska Courts Failed to Unwrap this Christmas

statueThe snow-covered courtyard that stretches from the doors of the Fairbanks Superior Courthouse to the meandering bank of the Chena River twinkles with Christmas lights throughout the late winter months. The clock tower chimes the time. In the shadow of the clock lies the cernterpiece of the plaza – a large bronze statue of an Inuit family. It is meant as a tribute to the first peoples of Alaska who for years have gathered at the courthouse doors asking for justice. In summer months the statue is the centerpiece of a busy downtown, but in the silence and snow they appear determined, but alone.

Inside the courthouse, on the desk of Paul Lyle, sits what is likely to be one of the most controversial court rulings in the history of Alaska. The ruling is another layer in the web of bureacratic secrecy that has troubled the Fairbanks Four case for many years.

Judge Lyle has made a ruling on the “secret confession,” and that ruling now sits hidden from public view while the appeal courts consider the secret appeal to the secret ruling on the secret document contained in the Alaska Innocence Project filing from September 2013. The document is widely assumed to contain a murder confession by Jason Wallace in the 1997 death of John Hartman, the crime for which the Fairbanks Four have been imprisoned for over 17 years and which they have claimed to be innocent since their arrests.

In recent weeks, a long-awaited sign of activity on the Fairbanks Four case appeared on the docket of the Fairbanks Superior Court. The court records available to the public are scant, but have put the community on notice that there is indeed activity behind the closed doors.

Court documents released in early January indicated that Judge Paul Lyle has indeed made a decision on some element of the case, but the decision has been stayed – the legal equivalent of a pause button. The reason for the stay is to allow for a person named only as “The Affected Party” to perfect an appeal. Although the nature of sealed proceedings is inherently vague, the press was quick to deduce that the affected party was Jason Wallace, a man whose “secret confession” is at the heart of the sealed brief, the closed courtroom proceedings, and much controversy.

jason wallacLittle is known about the details of the statements made by Jason Wallace and filed under seal. But enough is known about Jason Wallace, his crimes, his actions, his habits, and circumstances, that coupled with the reporting surrounding the issue, that supporters have long been able to read between the lines.

Jason Wallace currently resides in Spring Creek Maximum Security Prison in Seward, Alaska, where he is serving a 60 year sentence for the 2002 murder by hammer of Fairbanks woman Teacke Bacote, the stabbing of Fairbanks resident Corey Spears, and his part in the conspiracy that led to the killings of Hakeem Bryant and Christopher Martin. The bloody crime spree planned by Wallace and his associate William Holmes was interrupted before they were able to kill thier last three intended victims – Michale Keys, Jaqueline Godfrey, and Godfrey’s young daughter.

Wallace and Holmes had a relatively simple plan – the two were involved in a planned $80,000 drug purchase, along with a handful of friends. Wallace was to stay in Alaska to kill the two people in Fairbanks who knew the details of the buy, Teacka Bacote and Corey Spears, while Holmes flew to California with their fellow buyers, Hakeem Bryant and Christopher Martin, to kill them. Then, Holmes and Wallace would reunite in Washington to make the purchase and kill the last targets – Michael Keys and Jaqueline Godfrey along with her young daughter (presumably to prevent witnesses) -allowing them to keep the drugs and cash. William Holmes and Jason Wallace were willing to kill their own friends, women, and an innocent child for $80,000 in cash and another $80,000 worth of cocaine. The plan did not end as planned and fate spared the lives of the last three victims.

William Holmes, 1997

William Holmes, 1997

Holmes killed Martin and Bryant in California. He shot them execution-style on the side of the freeway on Christmas Eve. Their bodies along with the charred remains of the rental car the three were travelling in were discovered the same day.

On December 27, Jason Wallace went to the home of Teacka Bacote, an unarmed 22 year old woman and friend, and killed her with a hammer. He then went to the house of friend Corey Spears and stabbed him in the neck with a screwdriver as the man slept. Although it was Wallace’s intention to kill him, Spears survived the brutal attack. After attacking Spears, Jason Wallace returned to the home of Teacka Bacote to set her body and fully occupied apartment building on fire.

Wallace was apprehended at the Fairbanks International Airport when he arrived burned and reeking of gasoline and attempted to board a flight. He confessed nearly immediately to his crimes. He cried and talked often of his mother and God in his interviews with troopers. His tears were not for his victims, but for himself. Having planned the deaths of seven people, stabbing his friend, and murdering a woman by hammer, Jason Wallace was overcome with self-pity. It is clear in transcripts that Wallace wanted to do as little time as possible, and he immediately began providing information on his codenfendent as well as many other associates. He, for example, names Shelmar Johnson as the man who supplied the weapons for the crime spree he and Holmes planned. He named many individuals as drug users, sellers, and showed an extreme willingness to provide any kind of information he could to negotiate for leniency.

Sometime between the night he was arrested and early 2004, Wallace said something else. The Alaska Innocence Project refers to “statements of Jason Wallace” that corroborate the written confession to the Hartman beating death by William Holmes, and goes on to say that the court must determine whether these statements are still subject attorney client privilege.

Given that Jason Wallace only had one attorney, public defender Geoffrey Wildridge, and only had communication with the attorney from spring of 2003 through the end of his trial, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that Wallace must have confessed to killing John Hartman to his attorney. Because Jason Wallace provided so much information, and so openly negotiate information for leniency, it is easy to imagine that Wallace may have confessed only in an attempt to trade the information for more leniency. It seems not only possible but very likely that many people under State of Alaska employ inside the justice system may have known about alternative confessions in the Hartman case as far back as 2002 or 2003.

Do Not EnterYet, unless and until the words of Jason Wallace currently buried inside a secret filing and caught up in a secret appeal are ever released, the truth about Jason Wallace remains a carefully kept secret.

As always, Alaskans, remember that there are many who walk among you with secrets about this case. Sadly, that includes some members of society we are told to trust the most. But it also includes scores of individuals who heard directly from William Holmes, Shelmar Johnson, Marquez Penningotn, and Jason Wallace about the killing of John Hartman. If you or anyone you know has information about this case please contact the Alaska Innocence Project at (907) 279-0454.

Want to read more? Do!

Local Reporters Visited Wallace at FCC in 2004. In this article, they describe his response to their questions about the case. Read that HERE

Local reporter Brian O’Donoghue released an article recently in the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer. It is as detailed as any article is likely to be regarding the appeal process.HERE.

HERE, HERE, and HERE are a few articles on the murders Wallace and Holmes committed in 2002.

Wallace was hardly the only one talking. Bill Holmes confessed to the murder of John Hartman first in 2011 to an officer at the correctional facility where he is serving a double life sentence, who sent the confession on to the Fairbanks Police Department, who passed it on to the District Attorney. They then worked together to hide the confession, but it was eventually revealed. Read about that HERE. Holmes eventually got a confession to the Alaska Innocence Project as well. Read about that HERE.

Advertisements

Deranged State of Alaska Insists that Innocent Men Should Remain in Prison

queenofheartsThe State of Alaska filed their response to the Innocence Project filing that rejected their claims. You can and should read about that HERE. Because, honestly, the state’s response is so stupid that it isn’t even fun to write about and probably no picnic to read about either. And it has left me thinking about the crazy, mean Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. Remember her? I am feeling pretty convinced that if we put her in charge of the justice system in the State of Alaska we would be making a fair trade in terms of ethics and competence. But at least we would have painted roses and maybe a catchy theme song.

The State of Alaska started this response period of with….wait for it….yet another request for an extension! When they requested an extension I had high hopes that they may have something at least new to say. Alas, it appears they needed more time to simply regurgitate their last filing, with the spelling errors mostly cleaned up, and the rather embarrassing, tasteless, dishonest attack on a witness removed.

But the basics are the same. The State of Alaska is willing to have an evidentiary hearing on the Fairbanks Four case. They just don’t want any of the evidence to be allowed in. They surmise that in this evidence hearing they do not want any evidence that will bring Alaskans “closure” on this issue. Apparently, they honestly believe their citizens are so unaware or stupid that we will accept an evidence hearing without the evidence as closure and go on with our lives, pretending that they didn’t lock up innocent children. Pretending that they didn’t leave serial killers on our streets. Pretending that they didn’t lie, hide, cheat, and bribe. We cannot have justice, so they offer “closure” through a review of evidence with no evidence allowed.

I can see why – it is evidence likely to set innocent men free. It is evidence likely to make it crystal clear that the Fairbanks Police Department chief hid a murder confession. That the DA hid a murder confession. That the courts are still hiding what appears to be a separate murder confession. That witnesses were harassed. That witnesses were bribed. And, most horrifyingly, that if the people sworn to seek and uphold justice in 1997 had tried even a little bit to do that, not only would four innocent men be free, but at least five other lives could have been saved, perhaps more. It’s the brutal and unflinching truth, and the truth is the rattling skeleton in the State of Alaska’s gleaming mansion of lies.

The State argues that the confession of William Holmes should be thrown out and considered hearsay. We discussed that at length HERE the last time they made the argument.

The State argues that the scientific evidence should not be allowed in because progression in the forensic sciences is not relevant to post conviction relief filings. I mean, who needs science, right? The progression in the sciences has more than doubled our life expectancy and led to such revelations as the world not being flat, the existence of space, and the cure to the diseases that used to kill nearly all of us. But, scientific progress isn’t for the State of Alaska.

In a nutshell, the state believes a confession of murder from the murderer is “hearsay” and that modern science has no place in a courtroom. Even though the filing is full of words and legal references (as a matter of fact, in one jewel of a statement they attempt to discuss precedent by citing an unpublished opinion that they then acknowledge does not set precedent), all I can picture is that crazy queen. Our system indeed seems that absurd, deranged, and sick with power. It would be easy to make fun of that for 5,000 words. Yet, the state opinion is so ridiculous it is essentially a parody of itself. And, they are spending your tax dollars to do this absurd work, much more slowly than necessary!

In the end, there is nothing funny about it. This isn’t a movie and it isn’t a joke. Lives are at stake, and our justice system is sick, sick, sick. It remains sad, it remains shocking, it remains heartbreakingly painful that the State of Alaska is so invested in protecting themselves from embarrassment that there is no limit to the lives they will ruin, deaths they will turn a blind eye to, and lows they will stoop to. But, it has been made clear that they have no plan to change their tactic.

It’s an election year. Alaskans, you might want to ask your politicians about this issue. Surely, we can do better than this.

 

State of Alaska Responds to Fairbanks Four Claim of Innocence

clockTick, tock. Tick, tock.

Life is about time. Time is all we have, really. And time is what the State of Alaska has stolen from so many, and what they are always wanting more of.

In the last hours of the last day remaining of the six month extension the State of Alaska was granted to review the Alaska Innocence Project’s motion for post conviction relief based on actual innocence for the Fairbanks Four, the State of Alaska has finally responded.

In September the Alaska Innocence Project and attorney Colleen Libby filed motions claiming that George Frese, Eugene Vent, Marvin Roberts, and Kevin Pease were innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. The state responded to that claim (which spanned some 131 pages) with a 23 page response which focuses largely on legal technicalities and little on the inherent accuracy of the claim that the Fairbanks Four are innocent, and that five other men are actually responsible for the violent beating death of John Hartman.

In general the response by the state reads like a typical attack by a prosecutor made on the arguments of opposing counsel. The response appears to be hastily written, with typos and a very conversational tone. It is not an thorough nor is it an independent review of the case and the claims of innocence by the Fairbanks Four, which is what the State of Alaska assured the Alaskan public is what they would receive at the end of the long extension (HERE).

In fact, the complexity of the case and the need to be thorough were cited as primary reasons for the long extension request. Senators Begich and Murkowski both wrote open letters to the governor (HERE and HERE) stating the importance of a thorough and independent review. Murkowski demanded that “no stone be left unturned.” In response, the State of Alaska overturned no stones. In fact, they only attempted to bury the stones. Begich asserted that “there can be no excuse for not having acted quickly in pursuit of justice and fairness for all involved.” In response, the State of Alaska acted slowly in pursuit of vague and poorly crafted arguments that this case should be kept out of court, with no indication that these arguments were in the interest of justice nor fairness.

We will highlight some of the most important and striking statements made by Alaska Prosecutor Adrienne Bachman on behalf of the State, and respond to them here. In this post we will focus on a few of her most important and central arguments. In the days to come we will continue to provide specific responses to the many statement made by the State. For tonight we will highlight the principle attacks on the Holmes confession. Quotes from the filing are in bold.

“As reported at the court’s last status hearing, investigation into the allegations made in the petitions is not complete.”

Let us begin by clarifying the roles of the State and Innocence Project. The Innocence Project is a legal non-profit. They function as a neutral third party who conducts independent reviews and investigations of cases that are referred to them and pass the initial screening process, during which it is determined that there exists a credible indication that the case may be one of wrongful conviction. They then complete a review and investigation and produce findings. In the case of the Fairbanks Four there has only ever been one independent investigation. That investigation was done by the Innocence Project, and the findings of that investigation were made public through the filing of a post conviction relief motion.

The State of Alaska was tasked only with reviewing and verifying the information in the PCR filing made by Alaska Innocence Project. The Innocence Project is staffed by one attorney, run by a volunteer board, and funded through donations and grants alone. They investigated a case that originated in 1997, reviewed all original materials, investigated the assault of Hartman, procured at least one direct confession, and filed their findings in less than eighteen months. By contrast, the State of Alaska has scores of attorneys at their disposal, access to the use of Alaska State Troopers, police, Alaska Bureau of Investigation, and millions of dollars in their budget for this fiscal year alone. Yet, they were unable to thoroughly review the work of one attorney in an eight month period. This is cause for concern. Furthermore, they failed to even scratch the surface of the task given them, which was to complete a review of the Alaska Innocence Project findings and investigate the evidence contained within. Instead of investigating the information to verify its accuracy they simply crafted an argument to keep the information out of court.

Let us also clarify what exactly the Fairbanks Four are asking for. They have filed a motion for post conviction relief that asks the state to vacate their convictions. It does not ask for immediate exoneration and release. It asks for convictions that were obtained with incomplete information, fictional information, fabricated testimony, coached and bribed testimony, and junk science to be vacated. The state could comply with that request and proceed into a trial. If the State of Alaska could convict them today with all available information admitted into trial, they could vacate these convictions and return to court to have an honest and fair trial, kinda like the one promised to all Americans in the constitution. It is not the release of the Fairbanks Four the State of Alaska is arguing against, it is their right to have a jury of their peers determine their guilt or innocence in a court of law. For eight months the State of Alaska has, with its virtually limitless resources, produced a document that not only fails to fulfill its expressed purpose, but is by their own admission “not complete.”

 

Bachman makes numerous and vigorous assertions that the testimony of William Holmes (HERE) is not in fact a confession, but hearsay.

“What the petitioners present amounts only to hearsay allegations that a third person, Jason Wallace, made incriminating statements about assaulting John Hartman…and hearsay is not admissible evidence.”

Webster Dictionary defines the two words in question here as:

Hearsay. noun. information received from other people that one cannot adequately substantiate; rumor.

Confession. noun. a written or spoken statement in which you say that you have done something wrong or committed a crime.

The confession by William Holmes is a firsthand account of his actions, motivations, intentions, movements, and observations the night John Hartman was killed. He confesses to driving into downtown Fairbanks that night with a group of friends for the express purpose of assaulting someone. He expresses that he intended to harm someone, and to drive the car necessary for all parties to flee the scene of these assaults. He further states that after learning John Hartman had died from the assault that he told his accomplices to not talk about the assault.

William Holmes confesses his crime. He confesses his sins. In fact, Holmes first attempted to provide this confession to the Fairbanks Police and through them, the District Attorney and state. They then hid the information and did nothing with it. Read about that HERE.

When the State of Alaska interviewed William Holmes about his involvement with the Hartman murder he maintained his guilt and the guilt of the other parties named. Without the ability to disprove his claim it appears that Adrienne Bachman chose the only method left to her in attempting to uphold the Fairbanks Four conviction, which was not to address whether or not the confession was true, but simply to craft an argument that it was technically not a confession.

The legal definition of hearsay is more complex, but in essence the same in spirit and application. Bachman’s assertion that the Holmes statement is purely hearsay is absurd. If her version of hearsay were to be applied that would mean that essentially a person could agree to drive their friend to go stab someone. They could wait outside until the friend came back out, bloody with a knife in hand, and said “I just finished stabbing so-and-so, let’s get out of here,” and that person’s testimony would not be allowable in court. I am not attorney, but I don’t need a legal degree to tell you, that is stupid. And if it is the best that the combined brainpower, money, resources, and attorneys at the department of law can produce in eight months, we should all be very concerned.

Bachman goes on to poke holes in the credibility of Holmes and Davison’s statements by explaining that they should not be believed because they did not come forward to get any leniency for themselves. As in, they had nothing to gain by coming forward, so we should not believe them.

Um…….okay, I officially have a headache.

In reality, the fact that neither Holmes nor Davison had anything to gain in coming forward lends credibility to their statements. If they had been offered some kind of leniency or reward or personal gain their statements would be less credible. But apparently at the department of law doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do is unheard of. Somehow, I am not surprised. They themselves seem much more interested in taking action for personal gain or to avoid responsibility for their actions than in doing the right thing. Which is disturbing. Because that means that the State of Alaska is apparently less ethical than a petty criminal and a triple murderer.

Perhaps the most interesting element of this filing is not what is in it, but what is NOT in it.

Bachman makes many personal attacks on Davison. Apparently when she was unable to dismantle the factual nature of his statements she opted to take a stab at intimidating and humiliating him to weaken his will. Remember, this young man had nothing to gain and everything to lose. She attacks him over and over as a person, yet does not bother to attach evidence that her claims are factual.

Bachman makes many comments about interviews and evidence that she does not introduce or include.

Bachman insinuates that she has ‘many’ witnesses, yet does not name even one.

What this filing fundamentally contains is a lot of grasping at straws, and very few facts. It is heavy on attempts to attack the truth through technicalities and light on any actual truth of its own.

Funny thing about the truth – it outlasts us all. Time reveals it. Funny thing about darkness – light banishes it.

The State of Alaska had an opportunity to seek justice instead of ego. Fundamentally, it is disappointing that they did not take that opportunity. No matter how hard they try to make this case go away, it will remain. No matter how hard they try to bury the truth, it will emerge. It is not disappointing because their approach will destroy the truth – it won’t. This battle will be long, but truth will prevail. It is disappointing because life gives human beings opportunities to choose between what is status quo and what is right. Those opportunities are gifts, and they failed to receive it. And at the end of the day, that is sad, because there is nothing so rewarding in life as to listen to your better angels and take a stand for good.

justiceAdrienne Bachman is only a person. In all reality she is just a person with a job, following rules, and taking orders from department heads and bosses. Orders from above.

We are taking orders from above, too. Perhaps it is time that she seeks a power higher than the one whose orders she followed today.

 

 

 

 

William Holmes Confession in Hartman Murder Supported by Others, Evidence

decadeSince the moment the Fairbanks Four were arrested for the murder of John Hartman in 1997 the case has been plagued by questions, community concern, and accusations of corruption. As the years passed the movement to exonerate the men convicted in the locally notorious beating death has not faded, but grown larger and more persistent. These efforts have raised funds for rewards, appeals, litigation costs, awareness campaigns, and to support the work of the Alaska Innocence Project. Many events, speeches, news articles, television specials, and rallies have been held over the course of the sixteen years that the Fairbanks Four have been incarcerated, and the case has long been a line dividing the residents of Alaska’s “Golden Heart City” between those who believe the four are innocent and those who do not. In all the years that the case has worked its way through the Alaska court system and the court of public opinion, there is no question that the most explosive development in the Hartman murder and plight of the Fairbanks Four has been the confession of convicted killer William Holmes, who names himself and four other men as the true perpetrators of the murder of John Hartman.

Holmes ConfessionThe handwritten confession, received by Alaska Innocence Project in late 2011, is the most shocking revelation of the application for a post conviction relief file on behalf of the “Fairbanks Four” on September 25, 2013. However, the handwritten three page confession is only a fraction of the contents of the 138-page filing. (READ CONFESSION).

 

Following the filing the State of Alaska’s representatives, Jason Skidmore on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office and Fairbanks Police Chief, were dismissive of the confession. Their criticism was essentially that the confession was not credible given the source – that the character of a known murderer was suspect and Holmes had nothing to lose. In this post we seek to counter that position and give a brief overview of the supporting statements of others and documentation that bolster the validity of Holmes’ confession.

In the days and weeks to come we will take a more detailed look at each of these piece of the Alaska Innocence filing. But for now, we want to outline the contents of the filing that corroborate the confession.:

1.) The affidavit of Scott Davison, who provided a statement to Alaska Innocence Project in 2008. In his sworn affidavit Davison details the confession that Jason Wallace gave to him in 1997 in the days after the murder of John Hartman. The details of the confession Davison recalls and the confession of Holmes, each given without the knowledge of the other and some 14 years apart, match closely. Scott came forward with no motivation (reward was not yet in place) beyond doing the right thing.

2.) The DMV records supporting that Holmes in fact owned and was driving the vehicle he describes in the confession. When a confession is not credible, small details are incorrect. For example, a person fabricating a confession often does something like name a car that they owned, but not at the time of the crime.

3.) Records from the FNSB School District affirming that the five accused were, as Holmes claims, classmates. They all attended Lathrop Highschool, as did EJ Stevens and Chris Stone, the last two people to see Hartman alive. Again, this is the kind of small detail that a false confession often misses.

4.) The filing also indicates that sealed statements made by Jason Wallace likely corroborate the confession of William Holmes. Reporter Brian O’Donoghue recently wrote an article that addressed this sealed statement in detail. His speculation, backed up by jailhouse interviews with Wallace and some thinly veiled comments from a few local public defender’s, is essentially that Wallace confessed to the Hartman murder sometime around 2002-2004 to his public defender, but that the attorney has kept quiet under the guise of attorney-client privilege. Unless and until a judge orders the “sealed” evidence to be opened, its contents cannot truly be know. But O’Donoghue’s work provides a strong hint to the contents of the evidence under seal. Read the article HERE.

5.) The details in the confession of William Holmes closely match what is known about the crime, victim’s injuries, and crime scene. Holmes describes spotting Hartman as he turned off of Barnette Street. He describes how Jason Wallace stomped Hartman over and over, despite the protests of the others present. He describes how, as Marquez Pennington rifled through the contents of Hartman’s pockets, the boy was shaking and then went limp. Hartman was found with the contents of his pockets scattered about, his wallet missing, laying face up with his knees on the curb, torso in the street, his baggy pants down near his knees, and other clothing in place. Hartman was displaying deceberate posturing, a body state that is indicative of severe brain injury, and often brain death. It is likely that the moment when Hartman stopped shaking was the moment of brain death. His belongings were scattered as they rifled through his pockets. His position was consistent with the assault type.

6.) Holmes does not mention a sexual assault. There was early police speculation and a “satanic panic’ style community belief that Hartman was sexually assaulted. In reality there was no determination of sexual assault by anyone besides one under-qualified nurse who likely mistook the anal dilation associated with brain trauma for a sign of sexual assault. The state medical examiner and other experts brought in to look for indications of sexual assault found none. The fact is that the physical evidence of the crime never supported a claim of sexual assault, although the press and community clung to it. Given that there is more evidence that Hartman was not sexually assaulted than that he was, there is credibility in a confession that does not contain this element.

7.)  Holmes states that Jason Wallace, the ‘ringleader’ in the account give by Holmes, had a substantial amount of blood on his clothes and shoes. Although the crime scene was described as bloodless by police, and had not been seen until the image on this blog was unearthed (HERE), the nature of Hartman’s injuries, statements by the people who found him, and recollection of responding EMTs always lead most who considered it to assume that whoever committed the crime would have had a substantial amount of DNA evidence on themselves and any getaway vehicle.

8.) The Holmes confession meets all litmus tests used to determine if a confession is legitimate. He provides details on location, the victim, the motivation, and shares the chilling details that have remained with him through the years. He does all of the talking, and is not prompted with leading questions or supplied details to repeat. No one forgets a murder. Holmes has spent the last eleven years without access to the internet, to news about this case, with no contact with the others he names, and had to draw his confession from memory alone, and memory that was a decade and a half old. That he was able to provide so much detail is indicative credibility. The experience of participating in a killing as a teenager would be traumatic. Even though he says “mentally, I lived as if that night never happened,” the details were likely so clear and accessible because they were so traumatic and remained vivid.

The filing corroborates every independent and verifiable statement made by Holmes. However, the State of Alaska has still chosen to question the credibility based on the character of William Holmes as well as the “nothing to lose” factor (Holmes is serving a double life sentence for unrelated killings). We would like to address both attacks on the credibility of the confession.

First, let us say that the ONLY credible confession of murder comes from a murderer. When a false confession of murder is elicited it is, in fact, not particularly credible (read about that HERE). It is a sad irony that the Fairbanks Chief of Police would make the statement that confessions of murder by known murderers is not the kind of confession he finds credible, in light of the fact that the FPD was quite willing to take confessions in this case from innocent men that were clearly not credible. It is impossible to receive a credible confession of murder from anyone except a killer. That three of the five men named have committed other murders does not detract from the credibility of the confession, it strengthens it. It is a tragic revelation. The moment that John Hartman stopped shaking these men became killers. Three of the five went on to become serial killers. That these men are capable of the crime is clear. We find this unimaginably sad, but also very true.

The second attack on the credibility of the confession is that Holmes has nothing to lose by confessing. He is serving a double life sentence, so it is absolutely true that the threat of additional time is probably not the kind of disincentive that it would be for a free man. That said, Holmes lives in a maximum security prison in California, which has the highest rate of murder of incarcerated men by incarcerated men in the country. It is well-known that in prison culture the most hated and attacked prisoners are snitches and child molesters (there are thousands of killings and articles and studies to underscore that, look on your own if you like, HERE is a relatively random one if you would like to read about snitching in prison).

William Holmes, 1997

William Holmes, 1997

The reality is that William Holmes has nothing to gain, and everything to lose. He has put his life on the line, and although we will not defend his character, he has risked the only thing he still has – his life. Assuming he is not killed for snitching, he has certainly sentenced himself to a life of isolation, fear, and assault.  It is impossible to say what motivated Holmes, but the most likely one is perhaps the most simple – for 16 years he has lived knowing that innocent men are in prison for a crime they did not commit and he chose to right that wrong. He has committed the sin of murder, and there is nothing he can do to bring the people he killed back to their families. But he does have the ability to do what he can to end his part in the ongoing victimization of the Fairbanks Four. For all of these many years people have hoped, prayed, and dreamed that the hearts of whoever killed John Hartman would be called to come forward. We choose to believe that those prayers certainly can permeate concrete and pass through prison walls, and that they reached William Holmes and called him to do the right thing.

If Holmes came forward just to clear his conscience, he would hardly be the first. Many wrongful convictions have been resolved after the true perpetrator confesses (read those stories HERE and HERE). Sadly, initial reactions to the confessions that eventually freed the innocent in those cases were met with the same predictable response that the State of Alaska has expressed in the Fairbanks Four case.

It is extremely uncommon for a prisoner, even a lifetime prisoner, to arbitrarily confess to a crime he did not commit. Voluntary false confessions are rare as well. It is reasonably common for the wrongfully convicted to be cleared or unsolved crimes to be solved when a perpetrator voluntarily confesses years later. These confessions usually come from prison cells, because the perpetrator went on to commit similar crimes and were eventually caught.

William Holmes’s confession is credible. And, contrary to the sentiment expressed by the state of Alaska, no one has to take his word for it in isolation. The confession is backed up by hard corroboration, the matching statements of others given at other times without collaboration, and mounds of anecdotal evidence that indicates that this is what a credible confession looks like. (Read about credible confessions HERE).

Regardless of his past misdeeds, William Holmes made a decision to tell the truth. And, as we have said many times, the truth will prevail. The truth will FREE THE FAIRBANKS FOUR.

 

*Footnote – it remains necessary, although painful, to write about the details of the last moments of John Hartman’s life. To those who knew and loved him, we are sorry if our words bring you pain. We have posted about that HERE and encourage all of our readers to pray for John, his family, and remember to honor his memory as best you can.

Hope – A Letter from George Frese

20120608-123632.jpg

This letter needs little introduction, if any at all. George Frese wrote this from his cell in Spring Creek Correctional Center, a maximum security prison where he is waiting. Waiting, approaching his 15th year of incarceration for a crime he did not commit. A crime to which no physical evidence ever connected him, committed against a boy he never met, on a night he spent with half a dozen alibi witnesses. Most importantly, a crime that people outside the walls confining him have information about. Information that could allow him to receive a new trial. This information is the key that unlocks his cell and sends him home. These people have chosen to remain silent for many years out of fear and a false belief that someone else should come forward, and that their non action hurts no one. This letter is to them.

They say time heals all wounds, but what if it was the complete opposite? Where every moment that passed you by was an accumulation of pain, sadness, loneliness, and missed memories? This is the life that has been dealt to the Fairbanks Four.

Nearly fifteen years have been accumulated. Sixty years when you add all four of our lives together. Perhaps thousands of years when you include our family and friends.

The first fourteen years were tough, but none as tough as the past year. The last year has allowed me to see family that I haven’t seen in nearly twelve years because I spent all of that time in an our of state prison. The ones that I have seen have aged considerably and have caused me to feel a sense of urgency to be home. Old friends come back and new friends have been made.

All this publicity has caused out hopes to soar. Hope that the powers that be will have mercy and give us back to our families. Hope that anyone with information will come forward and free us from our misery. Hope that all this ends. Hope that it happens soon. Hope that we will be free to follow our dreams and not take anything for granted.

Always Hopin,

George Frese

20120608-123456.jpg

Dear Silent Holders of the Truth – A letter from Eugene

One incredibly frustrating, heartbreaking, difficult reality about the murder of 1997 is that THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO KNOW WHO DID IT. One investigator after another has identified a small handful of people that have information about this case, and knows that there are others. There is a $35,000 reward for information. ANYONE with information can call Bill Oberly with the Innocence Project at 907-279-0454 and come forward anonymously or on the record, and PLEASE, PLEASE, if you or someone you know has information about the killing of John Hartman, DO come forward.

What the investigators continually hear from people with information is that they are afraid of retaliation or being labeled as snitches, most especially afraid of retaliation or hardship if they themselves end up in prison. Although their choice to remain silent is their choice to make, it is heartbreaking. In order for the Fairbanks Four to get a new trial, these people would HAVE to come forward.

Below, Eugene speaks to THEM. To people that have information in this case but choose to stay silent.  Spread this letter everywhere you can, most especially to anyone you think it might apply to. Hopefully their heart is softened by Eugene’s plea and they are encouraged by his words of support.

Didn’t Do It – Poem by Eugene Vent

Eugene Vent, a short time before he was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Below is a poem by Eugene Vent. We included a picture of both handwritten pages and typed it for easier reading as well. Imagine the incredible grief and pain that would come from being wrongfully accused and incarcerated. All of the things you cannot do – hug someone, stand out in the snow and see the lights, eat a meal, run into a friend, hold a hand, see you home, your family, stand on the banks of the river. For Eugene that river would be the Koyukon. A few days ago I found myself heartsick for that sight – I haven’t seen it in a few years, and then it dawned on me that Eugene has not seen the places he yearns for in over 14 years. Freedom is everything….freedom is the foundation on which nearly all things in life are built upon. All things except, perhaps, faith. These four young men have seen nothing but injustice, have been the victims of the worst in people. Yet, there they sit, with absolute faith. Faith in destiny, in love, faith in the goodness of people, faith in their friends, family, supporters, faith in prayer, FAITH IN JUSTICE. So much of their strength comes from all of you. We were blessed with two successful fundraisers this week, and are blessed with incredible generosity from so many people. To hear their story would cause anyone to lose faith, but to see the legions of people band together and fight for them restores it. Thank every one of you who reads, donates, hopes, and prays for these men. It keeps their hopes high, their faith strong, and someday soon we hope it WILL bring them home where they belong.

                                           “DIDN’T DO IT”

                                            by Eugene Vent

“Didn’t do it,” that’s what I told the detective, but still he chose to put me through it.

“Didn’t do it,” told my mother and she believed me – continued to have my back like countless others.

“Didn’t do it,” I told my first lawyers. “Take a deal,” they’d plead, instead of fighting like warriors.

“Didn’t do it,” what I told the judge, NOT GUILTY what I pled…..and on that I’ll never budge.

“Didn’t do it,” I told my trial attorney and he told me it could end up being a very long journey.

“Didn’t do it,” I told the D.A., and also the jury…..when found guilty I felt so much fury.

“Didn’t do it,” I told the judge that was going to sentence me…ultimately got 48 years in the penitentiary.

“Didn’t do it,” what I told some antisocial human beings, they didn’t care because they’re heartless machines.

“Didn’t do it,” I told the Parole Board that continued me to 2014; just another chapter in the saga that I know will end in the freeing of the Fairbanks Four!

“Didn’t do it,” what I tell anybody who will listen and do something with it.

“Didn’t do it,” that is our story and we will forever continue sticking to it because the Truth always comes out in the wash.

Thank you so much for reading this, I always loved poetry and being able to create my own style in writing it. Thank you to everyone for cooperating in this battle and never quitting, even in the hardest times.

I believe in the efforts of all of you, I feel extremely confident it will pay off soon and we can finally get what we truly deserve……Freedom.

Baase’

Your Friend,

Eugene Vent

"Didn't Do It" by Eugene Vent, p. 1