A Montana man was taken back into custody for a 1979 murder earlier this week following a state Supreme Court ruling that could send him to prison for the rest of his life, reported the Associated Press. After new evidence pointed to a false confession in 2011, a Montana District Court judge released Barry Beach and ordered a new trial. Although prosecutors appealed the decision, a retrial date was never set.
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.
“It was hard enough to be innocent to begin with,” Beach told The Associated Press less than two hours before his surrender. “But to be going back, still innocent, for the second time, is just unbelievable.”
Billings Mayor Tom Hanel said the high court’s 4-3 ruling upholding the original conviction denied Beach his chance to prove his innocence. Hanel said he befriended Beach at the local diner where he found employment after his release.
“It’s a question of whether justice has really been served and if a fair opportunity has been provided,” Hanel said.
Beach’s attorneys promised to fight for his release, saying that the case could potentially go to federal courts or even the U.S. Supreme Court.
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