One of four Fairbanks men fighting for exoneration from murder convictions was paroled last week. The Alaska Native community gathered in Fairbanks over the weekend to welcome home Marvin Roberts.
Friends and family sang and danced to celebrate the release of Marvin Roberts. Roberts is one of the so called “Fairbanks Four,” men whose convictions for the 1997 beating death of 15-year-old John Hartman, have long been questioned. The three others: fellow Alaska Natives George Frese and Eugene Vent, and American Indian Kevin Pease remain jailed. A request for post conviction relief, currently working its way through court, centers on new information pointing to others being responsible for the Hartman attack. The interior Native Community has increased support for the Fairbanks Four in recent years, something the 37-year-old Roberts recognized in brief comments at the weekend event.
Roberts has been in a halfway house in Fairbanks since last week, after transitioning from prisons where he spent the last 17-plus years. Speaking at the Saturday event, Tanana Chief’s Conference President Victor Joseph reflected on the bitter sweet feeling of many.
Joseph emphasized the importance of the event as a fundraiser for the Alaska Innocence Project, which along with other attorneys is working to exonerate the Fairbanks Four. Their request for post conviction relief largely hinges on self-incriminating statements by two former Fairbanks men serving time for unrelated killings. Alleged statements by one of those men about the Hartman murder, remains under seal of attorney client privilege, a situation Innocence Project Director Bill Oberly calls very unique.
Oberly remains optimistic justice will prevail, pointing to Robert’s parole despite maintaining his innocent. Oberly is hoping for a ruling releasing he sealed statement prior to an evidentiary hearing scheduled for October.