The Fairbanks Four exoneration case is in the hands of Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle.
Closing arguments were heard Tuesday in a five-week hearing to consider innocence declaration requests by George Frese, Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts, and Eugene Vent, the four men convicted of the 1997 murder of John Hartman.
The Fairbanks Four petitions focus on alternative Hartman murder suspects William Holmes and Jason Wallace, two men already imprisoned for unrelated 2002 drug killings, who peg the Hartman attack on one another.
In closing, Fairbanks Four attorney Bob Bundy maintained that the Hartman murder secret held by Holmes and Wallace helped fuel their later cocaine ring killing spree.
“Holmes trusted Wallace, trusted Wallace to carry out his murderous plot to kill their competition in the cocaine business,” Bundy said. “I don’t suppose there’s a reason for that other than he knew that Wallace would keep his mouth shut and that Wallace was capable, capable of brutality on that scale.”
State attorney Adrienne Bachman painted a much different picture in her closing comments, arguing that Holmes and Wallace had no role in the Hartman attack, and are using it to leverage leniency in their own imprisonment, a blame game Bachman maintains has become one of the tools the Fairbanks Four are wielding to challenge their own murder convictions.
“We all understand what the agenda is here,” Bachman said. “The agenda is to somehow undermine the court’s confidence that due process was served in the four trials, the three trials in which 36 jurors deliberated and came to unanimous verdicts based on the highest standard of proof in the land.”
The standard of justice Judge Lyle must apply in considering the Fairbanks Four post-conviction relief requests is less than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement the men were convicted under.
Post conviction relief requires clear and convincing evidence. Lyle cautioned that he has thousands of pages to read before a six-month clock for him to rule begins ticking.