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U.S. Supreme Court Declines Fairbanks 4 Dismissal

April Monroe
Courtesy of Free The Fairbanks Four blog

The United State Supreme Court today (March 8) declined to get involved in the case of the four Fairbanks men suing the city. They say the City of Fairbanks for wrongfully imprisoned them for 18 years for a murder they did not commit.

In what has become known as the “Fairbanks Four,” the men were convicted of the murder of John Hartman, who was found beaten on a Fairbanks street corner in 1997. He died in the hospital two days later.

George Frese (freeze), Kevin Pease (peez) Marvin Roberts and Eugene Vent were convicted of murder, and spent 18 years in prison. The evidence of their case was re-examined in a five-week-long hearing in 2015, which included evidence that other people may have beaten Hartman.

Their convictions were vacated. Contract attorney for the City of Fairbanks, Matthew Singer, says they agreed not to sue the City or state as part of an agreement for their release.

“A promise is a promise and it’s enforceable in court.”

But attorneys for the four men said the settlement was not legally binding because they were coerced. The men filed a lawsuit in 2017.

The lawsuit was dismissed in U.S. District Court (by Judge H. Russel Holland) in October 2018, and the men appealed. In January, 2020, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s ruling which would allow the men’s lawsuit against the City to go forward.

The City of Fairbanks appealed that to the United States Supreme Court, which yesterday (Monday March 8) declined to take up the case.

Singer says the case will go back to U.S. District Court.

“We will be asking the federal district court to enforce the settlement agreement in which the Fairbanks for released all claims arising out of their convictions and promise not to sue anyone."

The court is not hearing civil cases during the pandemic, so it will likely be months before the next hearing.