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Fairbanks Four Advocate Says U.S. Justice Department is ‘Monitoring’ the Case

Rachel Saylor

A member of the Tanana Chiefs Conference Native Justice Task Force says the federal Department of Justice is tracking the case of the Fairbanks Four. That’s the four Alaska Native men who the task force and others say were wrongfully convicted of killing a teenager in Fairbanks in 1997.

“They stated that they’re aware of the case, and they’re monitoring it. And are waiting for a decision to be made,” says task force member Shirley Lee. “And if that decision warrants their involvement, they’ll take action.”

Lee outlined the status of efforts to get the state to review the case of the Fairbanks Four on Tuesday, during the Tanana Chiefs Conference’s annual convention at the Westmark Hotel.

“God willing,” she said, “at next year’s convention, Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent, George Frese and Kevin Pease will be standing here, exonerated.”

Lee says advocates for the Fairbanks Four asked the Justice Department to look in to the matter because they didn’t believe that state and local officials were seriously responding to requests for a review. She says that’s shown by the failure of officials with both Fairbanks Police and the local District Attorney’s Office to look into confessions given in 2011 by a former Fairbanks man serving time in prison in California, who says he was there when 17-year-old John Hartman was beaten to death.

And he says none of the Fairbanks Four were involved.

“Neither office, the FPD nor the DA’s office, did anything with that confession,” she said.

Local law enforcement and justice officials insist that the Fairbanks Four got a fair trial.

Also Tuesday, Lee announced that the Minneapolis-based law firm of Dorsey and Whitney has agreed to help in the case of the Fairbanks Four.

She also says a trial has been scheduled for October in response to post-conviction relief filings.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.