Friday, December 9, 2011

Barry Beach Twitter feed

I’ve had several people ask via e-mail and facebook about posting my entire Twitter feed from Wednesday’s bail hearing.

I’ve compiled the tweets in Storify. Here they are in chronological order:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

RAW VIDEO: Barry Beach is released

I wanted to post this yesterday but had technical difficulties with the hotel’s wifi.

Here is the raw video footage of Barry Beach’s very first moments of freedom after 29  years behind bars for the murder of Kim Nees, a crime he says he had nothing to do with.

After Judge E. Wayne Phillips ordered that Beach be released on his own recognizance, Beach was escorted out of the Fergus County Courthouse by Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Deputies.

They walked across the street to the jail, where beach gathered his personal belongings, changed into jeans and a Washington Redskins jersey, and then filled out some paperwork before walking out the front door.

About a dozen reporters, TV camera crews, even international journalists from the German ARD network were eagerly awaiting his release from the back door of the jail. We were lead to believe that’s where Barry would take his first steps of freedom.


But after about 20 minutes of eager anticipation, photographers and cameramen jockeying for position, people buzzing with excitement, we heard a car horn honking.

I walked out into the alley to see what the honking was about, and there was Beach, standing on the sidewalk by himself, a garment bag with this courtroom suit in it slung over one shoulder and a duffel bag in his hand. He looked somewhat dumbstruck and, as Jim McCloskey of Centurion Ministries later put it, Chaplin-esque.

Beach seemed dazed. I think most people imagined that if this moment ever happened, that Beach would walk out the door into the waiting arms of his mother, his family and his friends.

But when the moment finally came, Beach ultimately walked out the front door of the Fergus County Jail by himself, with no one there to immediately meet him. He took his first few free steps into that sunshine in quiet solitude. I while it probably wasn’t the way he dreamed it all those nights in Deer Lodge, I imagine there was probably something serene about not having cameras and reporters’ microphones and digital recorders shoved in his face the moment he walked out the door.

Barry Beach took his first steps of freedom on his own.

Of course, as you can see from the video, he was quickly surrounded by supporters, family and reporters. And he was very gracious and happy to oblige us with answers to our questions.

I’ll try to post a couple more videos and photos and what not when I have time. But now I have to hit the road.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Follow the Barry Beach bond hearing live

Judge E. Wayne Phillips’ Lewistown courtroom is packed.

Media outlets from across Montana – and even across the pond – have filled the jury box. More reporters have packed the front row of the gallery. The room is filled to capacity with supporters. Everyone is eagerly awaiting Phillips decision.


Will this be the day that formerly convicted murderer Barry Beach walks free?

Follow the courtroom action live at this link.

Late Tuesday afternoon Attorney General Steve Bullock’s office filed a notice of intent to appeal to the Supreme Court Phillips’ November ruling granting Beach a new trial. The state argues that Phillips erred in his legal justification for granting Beach a new trial.


Now they’re asking Phillips to stay today’s scheduled bond hearing pending a decision by the high court.

Beach’s lawyers say they’re still confident that Beach could walk out of prison today.

A reception room at the Yogo Inn has been reserved for the party.

A marquee outside the hotel reads “Welcome Barry Beach and supporters.”

But the outcome of today’s hearing is far from a sure thing. Phillips will have a lot of complex legal arguments to sort through before deciding whether or not to move forward with the bond hearing.

Even if they get to that point, there’s no guarantee Phillips will grant Beach – who is now officially charged with murder, but no longer convicted – bail. And even if he does, there’s no guarantee the bail will be low enough for Beach and his family to afford it.

The buzz in the courtroom at the moment is over the fact that the state’s attorneys, Tammy Plubell and Brant Light, did not make the trip from Helena. They will be appearing via Vision Net video teleconferencing.

Be sure to follow my live Twitter feed at the Great Falls Tribune website for all the latest developments.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

State appeals ruling granting Beach new trial

_RNS0164On the eve of a hearing to determine whether Barry Beach should be released on bail pending a new murder trial, Attorney General Steve Bullock's office appealed Fergus County District Court Judge E. Wayne Phillips ruling granting Beach a new trial.

Lawyers for the state also filed a motion asking Phillips to stay Wednesday's bond hearing in Lewistown and to keep Beach in prison pending the outcome of the Supreme Court appeal.

Beach was transported to Lewistown Tuesday in preparation for the bond hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Phillips last month found that new evidence in the case was credible and that a jury might not have found Beach guilty if the evidence was presented as his original trial.

Lawyers for Beach are asking Phillips to release Beach on his own recognizance pending a new trial.

But in an appeal filed Tuesday the state contends that Phillips failed to corroborate testimony from the post-conviction hearing with evidence from the original trial, including Beach’s "detailed and remorseful confession to the murder."

Beach has long maintained that his confession was coerced by aggressive Louisiana investigators. Beach also confessed to being involved in the three Louisiana murders, which turned out to be false. All three of those homicides were committed by others and Beach was never charged in Louisiana with any of those crimes. [A spokesperson for the state contacted me and said Beach never confessed to the three murders in Louisiana and that Beach’s defense lawyer made up the story that Beach confessed then later recanted.]

The state argues that, in addition to failing to consider all the evidence of Beach’s guilt, Phillips wrongly held that Beach’s new trial would include his ability to litigate claims of alleged ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct. According to lawyers for the state, such claims are legal claims that cannot be decided by a jury.

“After a thorough and careful review of the district court’s order, the state has decided that it must appeal to the Montana Supreme Court,” Mark Mattioli, Appellate Services Bureau chief for the Montana Department of Justice, said in a statement. “The state is aware of no case in the country where a confessed murderer has been granted a new trial under circumstances like this.”

Check back later for more details. Follow me on Twitter: @TribLowdown.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Senate confirms Christensen for federal bench

Dana christensenThe U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Kalispell Attorney Dana L. Christensen to be the next U.S. District Judge for Montana.

Christensen replaces U.S. District Judge Don Molloy, who began serving under "senior status" last summer.

Christensen is a civil litigator who has been a partner in the firm of Christensen, Moore, Cockrell, Cummings, & Axelberg, P.C. in Kalispell since 1996. 

Sen. Max Baucus submitted Christensen's name for the job to President Barack Obama back in February, and Obama officially nominated him in May.

The Senate on Monday confirmed Christensen and two other judicial nominees by unanimous consent. A fourth nominee was approved by roll call vote.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond and scholar on the judicial nomination process, said Christensen was a non-controversial choice for the bench as reflected by the unanimous Senate vote.

"He is so well qualified and non-controversial they just agreed without even a roll call vote," Tobias siad.

Tobias taught Christensen at the University of Montana School of Law in the late 1970s.

"He has a great temperament and is a very balanced person,” Tobias said. “He’s very patient.  He’s also well-practiced in federal and state courts as civil litigator for his entire career.”

Christensen received his J.D. in 1976 from the University of Montana School of Law and his B.A. in 1973 from Stanford University.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Judge sets Beach bail hearing for Wednesday

A Fergus County District Court Judge has set a bond hearing for Barry Beach, the man convicted of the 1979 slaying of a Poplar teenager.

District Judge E. Wayne Phillips has set the hearing for Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Fergus County Courthouse in Lewistown.

Last month Phillips found that new evidence in Beach's case was credible and granted

Beach a new trial. That ruling effectively vacated Beach's original 1985 conviction, so in the eyes of the law Beach is now charged with the crime. Beach's legal team says he should be released on bail pending a new trial, and they filed a petition for bail on Tuesday.

"We are actually very glad the judge set the hearing as soon as he did," said Peter Camiel, one of Beach's attorney. "It is our hope that by the end of the day Wednesday Barry can experience freedom for the first time in almost 30 years."

Beach was arrested in January of 1983 and has been in custody ever since. Camiel said he will argue to Phillips that Beach is not a flight risk and is not a danger to the community.

"In fact Barry welcomes the chance at a new trial to have a new jury hear the evidence," Camiel said. "He and his defense team believe a new jury would find him not guilty."