Last Updated: Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 at 5:25 p.m.
The Fairbanks Four hearing originally scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday in Fairbanks has been “vacated” or cancelled, according to court records.
Late Thursday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle challenged a deal between the State and the Fairbanks Four that would have had Marvin Roberts, Geroge Frese, Kevin Pease and Eugene Vents withdraw their claims of innocence in exchange for their immediate release from prison and promise not to sue the government for damages.
In his order, Judge Lyle wrote: “Trial judges have no desire to stand in the way of lawful settlements. However, the undersigned is unaware of the legal authority that would permit the immeidate release of petitioners who have withdrawn their claims of innocence while the State continues to asset the validity of their convictions”.
The Judge then gave lawyers for the Fairbanks Four and State prosecutors ten days to come up with a legal argument that would persuade him to approve the proposed settlement.
Please check back for updates.
The group known as the Fairbanks Four may be released from prison as soon as Friday, according to a report from the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer.
Three of the men — Kevin Pease, George Frese and Eugene Vent — remain behind bars 18 years after they were convicted of beating 15-year-old John Hartman to death in 1997.
The fourth man convicted in the original case, Marvin Roberts, was released from prison on June 17, 2015 and sent to a halfway house in Fairbanks.
According to the Newsminer, Chris Kelly, the older brother of Hartman, posted the following message on his personal Facebook page Wednesday:
“I am just going to say the Fairbanks Four are getting out on Friday and charges dismissed completely. I don’t know how to explain my feelings and disbelief that this is actually real.”
Bill Oberly, attorney for two of the Fairbanks Four, did not dispute Kelly’s post, the Newsminer reports, saying, “That’s pretty darn close.”
Kelly elaborated on his message during a phone interview with Fairbanks TV affiliate CBS News 13, saying:
“They get all charges dismissed, they can’t sue the state for wrongful imprisonment, they can’t sue the state for anything, actually. I feel like the state is protecting itself so they don’t have to pay millions of dollars to these people.”
Court records show a hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday in the Fairbanks courtroom of Superior Court Judge Paul Lyle.
Please check back for updates on this developing story.