Three Years after Being Freed, Montana Man Applies for Clemency


It has been three years since new evidence pointed to a false confession in a 1979 murder case prompting a Montana district court judge to release Barry Beach and order a new trial. Although prosecutors appealed the decision, a retrial date was never set and he was taken back into custody almost two years later.


That judge, Fergus County District Court Judge E. Wayne Phillips has since retired and joined the board of directors at the

Montana Innocence Project

, which has worked on Beach’s case for years.


Beach was convicted in 1984 of the murder of 17-year-old Kim Nees and sentenced to 100 years behind bars. He has always maintained his innocence and claimed that the confession was coerced during a three-day interrogation.


On Tuesday, Montana’s Board of Pardons and Parole heard testimony is support of Beach’s petition of clemency. KECI- NBC Montana reported that Phillips and Montana Innocence Project Co-Founder Dan Weinberg were among 20 people saying that Beach has already proved himself to be a productive member of society. He had a job, a home, and was planning for the future.


Members of the Montana Innocence Project don’t expect Beach to be exonerated but they are hopeful that the fact that he had a job and a home will be considered when making a decision on whether to accept the application for clemency.“That’s the best we can hope for at this point,” Weinberg said to the news station. “We expect that it will happen, but it’s not easy.”


“This whole idea of what the sentence would be in this modern age would be just one of the factors on their list,” Phillips said to KECI-NBC.


The board is expected to make a decision in a month. If the request is denied, he will remain behind bars.


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