Ex-FBI agent faults Fairbanks police interrogation tactics

Protestors shouts out in support of the Fairbanks Four during Gov Bill Walker's address to the Alaska Federation of Natives convention. (Photo by Jennifer Canfield/KTOO)

Protestors shouts out in support of the Fairbanks Four during Gov Bill Walker’s address to the Alaska Federation of Natives convention. (Photo by Jennifer Canfield/KTOO)

A former FBI agent says Fairbanks police violated fundamental investigative protocol following the 1997 murder of John Hartman. Gregg McCrarry testified on behalf of petitioners George Frese, Marvin Roberts, Kevin Pease and Eugene Vent, the men known as the Fairbanks Four, convicted of the Hartman killing, who are seeking exoneration.

Testifying during an ongoing evidentiary hearing, criminal investigation and interview expert Gregg McCrarry faulted former Fairbanks Police detective Aaron Ring for narrowing the focus of the John Hartman murder after Eugene Vent was picked up downtown during the early morning hours after Hartman was found severely beaten on a nearby street.

“As a matter of fact, Detective Ring testified that he had no evidence to suggest that Mr. Vent or the others were involved at all when he began this very guilt-presumptive, accusatory interrogation of these young men.”

The state objected to the inclusion of McCrarry’s testimony, characterizing it as opinion.

Assistant attorney general Ali Rahoi challenged McCrarry’s assessment of the investigation, saying police talked to more than just Vent and the other Fairbanks Four.

“Isn’t it true that the Fairbanks Police Department conducted approximately 200 interviews in the course of their investigation?” she asks.

“I don’t know how many they conducted overall,” McCrarry replied.

“OK, and that’s because you only partially reviewed their investigative report,” Rahoi says.

“Correct.”

McCrarry contended the additional interviews were intended only to build a case against the Fairbanks Four, not look for other suspects. McCrarry is also critical of initial police questioning of Vent and Frese when they were drunk and sleep-deprived, as well as the use of false evidence to persuade confessions from the two, who said they could not remember what happened around the time Hartman was beaten on a downtown street.

McCrarry referenced an interview transcript in which detective Ring lies to Vent that police have conclusive evidence tying him to the crime scene.

“He says, ‘Your shoe print is right in that blood.’”

McCrarry says so-called “guilt-presumptive questioning” has proven yield false confessions, characterized by admissions like those made by Frese.

“All he did was feed back the information he was fed,” McCrarry says. “I didn’t see anything that would independently corroborate his involvement.

Also discussed at yesterday’s hearing is the potential testimony of a man who’s previously alleged involvement in the Hartman attack. The Fairbanks Daily Newsminer reports that attorneys argued over whether Jason Wallace, a former Fairbanks man serving life for an unrelated murder, should be granted immunity against prosecution for the Hartman attack.

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