FAIRBANKS — An assistant Alaska attorney general has begun an official review of a 1997 Fairbanks murder case that led to the convictions of four Fairbanks Alaska Native men who say new information proves their innocence.
Two investigators from the state Department of Public Safety met with assistant Attorney General Adrienne Bachman this week in Fairbanks to begin the work, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Bachman is a prosecutor with the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals and a former Anchorage district attorney.
Bachman and the investigators worked two days in a conference room this week at the Fairbanks Police Department headquarters.
“The review will take many months, as I was not the original prosecutor and must review everything that has previously happened and then address the new allegations,” she said.
The review comes after the Alaska Innocence Project filed new information in September about the convictions of the so-called Fairbanks Four in the death of 15-year-old John Hartman, who was beaten on a Fairbanks street corner and later died at a hospital.
Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent, Kevin Pease and George Frese were convicted in trials held in Anchorage and are serving lengthy prison sentences. Many Alaska Natives say the men were wrongfully accused because of racial prejudice.
The men contend that a former Fairbanks man serving a double life sentence in California has confessed he played a role in Hartman’s death. They also say that new technology will challenge a suggestive footprint that was part of the 1999 trial.
The Fairbanks Police Department is not involved directly in the review. Police Chief Laren Zager, however, said that he provided a locked room for the investigators to work in this week.
The investigators reviewed old tapes. They also spoke with Lt. Jim Geier, who investigated the Hartman case in 1997.
Geier now leads the police department’s investigations unit.