Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Guest Shot: The story of Barry Beach’s innocence

This op-ed article originally was published in the Helena, MT Independence Record on March 23, 2008.

The story of Barry Beach’s innocence
By DANIEL J. GENGLER - Your Turn - 03/23/08

I am fortunate to live in a nation that aspires to the rule of law and justice for all.

And we are fortunate that the system works as well as it does. It’s not perfect but 99 percent of the time the system works reasonably well. The story of Barry Beach’s innocence is about the other 1 percent of the time.

I first found about this case in 2006 when a good friend asked me to take a look at a set of files. He told me it was about an innocent Montana man in prison. Because I respect this friend, I agreed to read them, though I was skeptical. As I promised, I read the files, but I was looking for the flaws in the case for Beach’s innocence. Somewhere near the end of reading these files, I reached a turning point. To the extent that what I was reading was authoritatively verified, I saw good reason to question the validity of this man’s conviction. But my skepticism was still not completely satisfied. I still wanted to know what the other side had to say. What was I not being told?

So I attended the hearings before the Board of Pardons and Parole this past summer and read the state’s documents to get the rest of the story. But after reading several voluminous documents and sitting through three grueling days of testimony, I heard nothing from the state that made any sense which undermined the case for Barry Beach’s innocence. I almost wished I hadn’t taken the time and effort to expose myself to the truth because, at that point, I could no longer take refuge in a lack of awareness. Like the Samaritan man on the road who happens upon a stranger in need of help, I saw such a stranger in need. And though it would be far more convenient to walk on by assuring myself that the matter was not my concern, my faith compels me to stop and help.

I am not alone. Montanans for Justice is a group of Montanans from throughout the state who are concerned about this travesty in our justice system. We are deeply disturbed by the fact that we have an innocent man in prison serving an extremely harsh sentence of 100 years without parole for a crime he did not commit. We are current and former elected officials, professionals, businessmen and women — folks from all walks of life who, through various circumstances, have come to know about this case. After thorough and careful review, all of us have come to firmly believe Barry Beach is not guilty of this murder, leading to the inescapable conclusion that those responsible for the murder of Kim Nees have not been held accountable. Not only has Barry Beach been denied justice for his wrongful conviction, the Nees family and the community of Poplar have been denied the true justice they deserve. Barry Beach is being represented legally by Centurion Ministries, an organization based in Princeton, N.J., dedicated to freeing the wrongly convicted. Centurion Ministries spent seven years and very substantial resources investigating this case before ever agreeing to represent Mr. Beach. Montanans For Justice is a grassroots effort composed of Montanans. We have no stake in this matter other than a desire for the truth to prevail.

Barry Beach’s wrongful conviction is really only symptomatic of a much larger issue at hand. As one writer wrote on the www.MontanansForJustice.com blog: “I was born in 1979, and I’ve heard all the rumors on the rez because I was born and raised on Fort Peck. I’ve heard all my relatives talk about it, my great-grandmother told me Kim Nees’ spirit still walks because she went too young. My relatives all lived on the hill and my mother was sitting outside that night, she heard alot of them partying down there, which makes me question Barry’s confession in which he said he was alone with Kim down there, and if so, then how come my mother heard more than a couple people down there? Also, I’ve heard all the rumors about Sissy and Maude, but I don’t think justice will come too soon for Barry because people on the rez are too scared to come forward. Look at the Follete murders, or Lawrence Crowe, and Richard Red Dog, I could go on, but of course, the right people are never convicted. I pray that they will be caught though, Poplar is a scary place to live for our children nowadays. How do you raise children in a town where murderers reside?”

How do you raise children in a place where there is little faith in law enforcement and our criminal justice system? Exonerating Barry Beach would be a shining beacon of hope in a community desperate for faith in the rule of law and justice.

There are, quite understandably, powerful forces that would prefer to quietly sweep this whole affair under the rug. But what’s politically convenient is not necessarily what’s right. The system works reasonably well 99 percent of the time. The system works even better when it faces up to the mistakes made the other 1 percent of the time and makes it right.

Daniel J. Gengler lives in Helena, Montana.

22 comments:

believer_3 said...

Having listened carefully as I watched Dateline this past Friday, I am greatly distressed that Barry Beach has not been set free. It seems obvious there is political pressure, intended or unintended, that keeps Mr. Beach an inmate in Montata. I applaud and pray for those working to set this injustice right!

Anonymous said...

It is very unfair. How can they put a man away for 100 years without a shred of evidence against him? These authorities convinced him to confess to something he didn't do. They promised him he would be free if he did. He was young and naive and didn't realize he was being set up. His confession isn't even the truth, because he simply told them what they TOLD him to say. It was recorded, but someone got ERASED! How do we know what was said on there? In fact, all the evidence, (that didn't match him in the first place) has been destroyed or missing!! Yes, Missing! If this isn't some type of cover up! Set Barry Free and let's put the real killer(s) in his place.

Katzy said...

Oh my Gosh...Set this Innocent Man Free and Prosecute the REAL
killer(s)!

Anonymous said...

I was a teen-age girl on the Fort Peck reservation at the time Kim Ness was murdered and there was alot of terror that raged of the rez by a pack of girls that preyed on girls that they thought were prettyer than them. I was one of those girls and some of them beat me too. Why wasn't this ever taken into acount????

Michael Kincheloe said...

Beach knew details about the murder that only the killer would know. The best witness against Beach was former Montana Governor Mark Racicot. This educated man who prosecuted Beach had more credibility than all of the rubes in Poplar combined.

Anonymous said...

It's no wonder Mr Beach remains in jail. When the governor of that state just happeneds to be the former prosecutor for this case. This man has no fighting chance to be free as long as you have all the former politicians still alive and well. The truth in my opinion will come out when they pass or when Mr Beach dies. And if the state of Montana has their way, Beach will die in jail.

Jennifer said...

I just learned of this case tonight. I too, am skeptical...but by the end of the documentation, I could find NO reason on earth that he was not paroled. This makes the justice system scary. 1 innocent person in prison is too many to make anyone feel truly at ease with our judicial process. I am truly disappointed in it, in this case. I can only think some high ranking people don't want to believe they imposed such a hideous life to an innocent man.

bjmcvay1 said...

This is politics at its very worst and very dirtiest. Unfortunately, I only first became aware of Barry Beach and his unbelievable case of No Justice when I watched the Dateline episode this past year. I thought I had witnessed the worst possible show of injustice when OJ Simpson was incredibly found to be innocent, of all things. Barry Beach's case is right up there with the impossibility of Simpson's case, only it's the extremely cruel opposite when it came to the right verdict brought in. Then, I just read the story from the woman who was a young girl telling about the bullying and terrorizing by a group of girls in that area at the same time Kim was killed. Why wouldn't someone have known this and looked into this girls' group instead of the rush to so-called "justice" and convicting someone who is obviously an innocent man, even to outsiders who do not know him personally. Barry, hang in there please. Surely, someone, somewhere, sometime will come out with either the truth or enough evidence that will provide the truth. Hopefully, this corrupt governor will be long gone from office by that time. My prayers and thoughts are with Barry Beach with the hope that this will get straightened out soon before too much more of this man's life is wasted in prison.

Anonymous said...

I too watched the story of Barry Beach and feel so sad! What can we do to help?

Anonymous said...

I would love to help this man and his mother. I can't believe this man would get 100 years in prison w/o any hard evidence against him, and with all the testimonies that placed those girls by the river at the night o the murder!!!

barrybeachsupporter said...

When is Montana stop prolonging the truth? It's been 27 years too long! Ms. Kim Nees is just as deserving as Barry for justice!!

The FACTS documented and undeniable most found on www.montanansforjustice.com

From the beginning Montana had help railroading Barry. While in Louisiana custody 3 1/2 years AFTER Ms. Nees murder Barry was coerced into signing 3 different
confessions for 3 different murders!

Before the BOPP hearing, Mike McGrath the then Attorney General of Montana own investigation before the farce received statements, which his own reports state how 4 different
people are known to have had the same necklace that belonged to Ms. Nees. Autopsy reported a piece of broken chain was found on her person.

#1 MAUDE GREY HAWK KIRN
BOPP TESTIMONY SISSY ADKINSON
PAGE 155 – 156
Maude called and told her that she had found Kim's diamond
necklace down by the river.

#2 JOANNE JACKSON TODD #3 EDDIE VANDOVER
JOANNE JACKSON TODD'S STATEMENT TO McGRATH'S OFFICE:
PAGE 12 Joanne, Eddie VanDover and she didn't know who they were with saw a necklace "A gold necklace with a diamond" by the river. Ed VanDover took it from her. PAGE 14 “It was a gold with a little diamond in it. A little cross with a diamond in it."

#4 CALIB GOURNEAU, imprisoned for drugs and is now on the meth task force for the Fort Peck reservation? He found the same necklace as all the others on 2 different occasions! GOURNEAU admits to having a broken necklace and stated to McGrath's office he turned the necklace into Stevie Grey Hawk, who by the way broke into the evidence room after the murder AND IS MAUDE GREY HAWK KIRNS OWN FATHER! Then in the SAME STATEMENT TO McGRATH’S
OFFICE he states he found the same necklace again in the fall while walking his dog!

MIKE McGRATH SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THIS AS I
DIDN'T HEAR IT BROUGHT TO THE ATTENTION OF THE BOPP OR TO
BARRY'S ATTORNEY'S DURING THE HEARING!

Document stating FBI’S COMMENT 1979, TWO CIVILIANS TURNED
IN PIECES OF JEWELRY THAT HAD BEEN FOUND WHERE POLICE HAD ALREADY THOROUGHLY SEARCHED.

According to a post on the MFJ blog Sissy Atkinson still has Ms. Nees CLASS KEY
Written by: Anonymous at 2008/04/16 - 07:13:08 in reply
to: 271
309 - Katie,
i didn;t even know about this case, one day sissy atkinson
walked me back to a room and showed me kims class key that
was in a jewerly box,(i didn’t know kim and i don’t know
barry)-(this is probable 10-15 years after the murder) this
was when i was a teenager. she threated me if i told anyone
that she showed me the necklace. plus who would do anything
about it in POPLAR mt.

It's proven time and time again
both factually and forensically that Barry's innocent.

There are natives involved with this murder! That comes under FBI jurisdiction. To this day 10 UNIDENTIFIED PRINTS AND THE BLOODY PALM PRINT still HAVE NOT been identified! The FBI's database holds the secret to opening those prison gates!

This case should never have been closed until every one of those prints had been identified.

Last but not least I didn't find one single document showing Caleb Gorneau, Maude Grey Hawk Kirn, Joanne Jackson Todd, or Eddie VanDover's prints, blood and hair were ever taken and compared to the evidence found! It's a known
fact Joanne Jackson Todd had clumps of hair missing from
her head after Ms. Nees murder!
However, the FBI cleared Barry Beach after the murder!

Barry's a political prisoner and it's evident. Mike McGrath is now the Chief Justice of Montana's Supreme Court. Barry's been waiting for 15 months on a decision from the court. How much longer is it going to take for Barry and Ms. Nees to get justice in Montana?

The evidence is clear, the murderers have talked! If Barry can be treated this way in Montana so can the rest of us!

This needs to end NOW!

Debbie Mermer said...

Hi I'm Debbie Mermer. A year ago at 3am on Valentine's Day I couldn't sleep, something told me to watch MSNBC's Dateline's episode of Barry Beach. As soon as I looked into his eyes I knew he was innocent. Since then, I've been on a quest to fight for his freedom. Let's all pray for him. He's been granted a new trial unannimosly by the supreme court starting soon. Lets all pray for Barry Beach. -Debbie

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear Mr. Beach will go before the Supreme Court and join you in prayer that he will be released from prison.

Anonymous said...

I feel like Barry Beach is innocent and that the parole board is wrong for not releasing him.I feel like the board & the detective are on the same side & dont like him.I also feel like the detectives couldnt find the real killers in that town of them other girls so who better to put it on?They dont want to look bad.When Barrys knew trial comes up,I hope & pray they let him out.He deserves it,and then I hope he sues the state for wrongful conviction.

CAROL LEIGH said...

I am sure Barry did not do this Crime.There is no physical evidence that he was even there.Montana can not admit they made a mistake and let Barry go.I pray Barry is set free and the killer found and punished.Our Justice System is flawed and a mistake was done here and needs to be corrected.

Anonymous said...

After watching MSNBC, it took me the first 30 minutes of the show to know he was innocent. Me and my husband went to Montana for our honeymoon and we both wanted to move to Montana, however I would never be associated with a state that convicts a person with NO evidence whatsoever! Where is JUSTICE in this world???

Anonymous said...

wow,where is the evidence proving that Barry is guilty?......hmm, let's see, NOWHERE!!!! How can all the officials sleep at night, knowing that an innocent man has been imprisoned, Im sure theyd think twice if it was their own son.

Anonymous said...

After watching dateline and hearing all the evidence, its clear to understand that mr. Beach is a wrongfully convucted man. From the prosecuter, to the detectives who took barry's statement, to the poplar sheriff who claims to have the man who killed kim nees, its very easy to tell that barry beacb is an innocent man. Keep the faith barry, the truth shall set u free.

Janel said...

Janel From Kentucky I Was watching ID tonight, and couldnt belive what i was hearing ! I myself have children 2 boys and one Daughter GOD only knows what the Ness Family must be feeling, but still crying out for justice to be served, but for justice to be served on the right killers. Their lives must be living hell knowing that they have the wrong person in prison for murder and nothing they can do about this. If political personal can not see or just admit there wrong , arent they just as guilty as the killers their self? I think that as much evidence as they have showing his not guilty that they should move his case to another state, " I PRAY FOR BOTH FAMILIES" but i will also start a Prayer Chain for the realese of BARRY BEACH

Anonymous said...

very good!

Anonymous said...

Shame on the judicial system for failing Barry Beach. They know that interrogations last many hours and it's not the first time an innocent man confessed.I am outraged that this man's appeal was denied. He should be set free and the state should give him a ton of money for wrongful conviction.My prayer's are for Barry and his mother.#

MJane28 said...

To sign Mr. Beach's petition please go to https://www.change.org/p/state-of-montana-in-the-name-of-justice-free-barry-beach-3