Judge’s error provides guarded optimism

A group trying to win freedom for the four men convicted of murdering a 15-year-old Fairbanks boy in 1997 is guardedly optimistic following a recent appeals court decision.

The Alaska Court of Appeals determined that Superior Court Judge Ben Esch erred in conducting his own research and then using that research in part to deny Eugene Vent’s appeal.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner says the decision could give Vent a new court hearing to argue that his trial lawyer gave him poor counsel.

Vent, along with Marvin Roberts, Kevin Pease and George Frese are serving sentences between 33 and 79 years in a Colorado prison. They were convicted in three separate trials of beating John Hartman to death on a downtown Fairbanks street corner on Oct. 11, 1997.