Alaska Innocence Project: Lessons Learned from the ‘Fairbanks Four’

The Alaska Innocence Project (AKIP) is an Alaska-based non-profit corporation that provides legal, educational, and charitable services to identify and exonerate individuals who have been wrongfully convicted in the state of Alaska, and to provide educational opportunities that foster a culture that champions the defense of the innocent.

AKIP became pivotal in the release of four Alaskans who’d served 18 years in jail after being convicted of murdering another teen in Fairbanks in 1997. In

The “Fairbanks Four”, a group of Alaska Natives who were convicted of murdering a fellow teenager in the late 1990s and exonerated after 18 years of incarceration, appear at the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks, Alaska on October 19, 2016. Marvin Roberts speaks to the crowd. Standing behind Roberts, from left: George Frese, Eugene Vent and Kevin Pease) (Photo from Wikimedia Commons, by RadioKaos, Oct 19, 2016.

2013, AKIP filed court documents citing new evidence suggesting the four who were convicted of the deadly beating were innocent; the Alaska Department of Law ordered an independent review of the case.

That review lead to a negotiated settlement, and the Fairbanks Four were free, with their convictions set aside.

“It was what we were looking for from the very start,” Bill Oberly, executive director of the Alaska Innocence Project, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on December 17, 2015, the day the four were freed. “The convictions are done away with. They have no convictions and they’re free.”

On today’s Justice Alaska on Hometown Alaska, Oberly and a pro bono Fairbanks Four defense team member, Bob Bundy, tell the story of the “Fairbanks Four,” including lessons learned. Oberly and Bundy identify common elements that show up in some wrongful convictions—from jail house confessions and eyewitness accounts that don’t stand up, to interrogations of minors and inebriated individuals.

Oberly will also describe a new grant AKIP is about to receive to review settled cases among Alaska Natives, looking for the potential of wrongful convictions.

Your questions and comments are welcome throughout the program.

HOSTKathleen McCoy

GUEST:

  • Bill Oberly, executive director of the Alaska Innocence Project
  • Bob Bundy, attorney in private practice, a pro bono member of the Fairbanks Four’ defense team

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  • LIVE: Monday, January 14, 2019 at 2:00 p.m.
  • REPEAT: Monday, January 14, 2019 at 8:00 p.m.