BREAKING: Montana Supreme Court reinstates Barry Beach conviction

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The Montana Supreme Court ruled today in a 4-3 decision to reinstate Barry Beach’s 1984 conviction for murdering 17-year-old Kim Nees on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Beach was released from prison in December 2011 while the Supreme Court considered his case, and has been living and working in Billings. He is now expected to return to prison to continue serving out his 100-year sentence.

The Independent has been chronicling Beach’s legal struggles and a tenuous freedom that he’s enjoyed this past year and half. When we broke the news to him this afternoon, there was a long silence. “I don’t understand,” he said. “I have to make some phone calls.”

Peter Camiel, Beach’s Seattle-based attorney, said he wasn’t sure how quickly Beach will be returned to prison. “It could be right away,” he said.

Beach has maintained his innocence for decades. He said that police pressured him into providing a false confession in 1983. In Dec. 2011, a Montana district court judge freed Beach after finding that new evidence introduced by his legal team during an evidentiary hearing could alter the verdict if presented to a jury during a new trial.

The Supreme Court in its decision today found that the lower court erred when it ordered Beach free and granted him a new trial. The court opined that “Beach’s new evidence was not reliable.”

Camiel has said that if the Supreme Court reinstated Beach’s conviction, they’d appeal to the federal court system.

The Indy will have more on this story.

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