State Will Investigate New Information Regarding Convictions of the Fairbanks Four
October 3, 2013
During the early morning hours of October 11, 1997, J.H., then 15 years old, was brutally murdered and sexually assaulted in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Earlier that night, Franklin Dayton was robbed and assaulted.
Four individuals – Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent, and George Frese – were charged with committing these violent acts following an investigation by the Fairbanks Police Department. Based upon the evidence presented, three separate juries found the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.1
All four appealed their convictions and the Alaska Court of Appeals has since reviewed, and affirmed, all four convictions.
The Alaska Supreme Court has declined every opportunity to review the convictions.
All four defendants have also previously filed applications for post-conviction relief. With the exception of Eugene Vent, all prior applications for post-conviction relief have been denied, either by the Fairbanks Superior Court or the Alaska Court of Appeals. Eugene Vent’s application for post-conviction relief is still pending before the Fairbanks Superior Court.
The Alaska Innocence Project has now filed new applications for post-conviction relief on behalf of three of the defendants, alleging grounds that have never been asserted before; namely, that other individuals have admitted responsibility for J.H.’s death (Eugene Vent’s current attorney has amended his pending application to include the grounds now asserted by the Innocence Project).
The Department of Law remains confident that all four convictions were properly obtained based upon the evidence presented at the trials. Notwithstanding, doubts have been expressed in the community where these crimes occurred, and the department believes a review of this new information is warranted.
Although there has never been any credible or serious allegation about the integrity of the investigation, or the prosecution, which led to these convictions, the department will conduct an independent review. With the cooperation of Commissioner Joe Masters and the Department of Public Safety, and with the full support of the Fairbanks Police Department and the Fairbanks District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Law has requested the Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Bureau of Investigation review and investigate the new information contained in the most recent post-conviction applications. Once that investigation is completed, the findings will be submitted to the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals (OSPA) in the Department of Law.
The state only has 45 days to respond to the recent applications filed on behalf of the four defendants. Because it will take substantially longer than that to conduct a thorough review and investigation, the department will approach opposing counsel to see if they will agree to a sufficient extension of time for this review and investigation to take place. If their cooperation is not forthcoming, OSPA will file a request with the Fairbanks Superior Court for the necessary extension of time.
The Department of Law will decline all further comment on the latest applications for post-conviction relief sought on behalf of these four defendants until such time as the investigation has taken place and the department has filed its responsive pleading.
1 The precise convictions are as follows:
George Frese was convicted of second-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault, first-degree robbery for his actions committed against J.H. Frese was also convicted of second-degree assault and first-degree robbery for his actions committed against Frank Dayton.
Eugene Vent was convicted of second-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault, first-degree robbery for his actions committed against J.H. Vent was also convicted of second-degree assault and first-degree robbery for his actions committed against Frank Dayton.
Kevin Pease was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery for his actions against J.H. Pease was also convicted of second-degree assault for his actions against Frank Dayton. Pease was not convicted of sexually assaulting J.H. or second-degree robbery for his actions against Dayton.
Marvin Roberts was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery for his actions against J.H. Roberts was also convicted of second-degree assault for his actions against Frank Dayton. Roberts was not convicted of sexually assaulting J.H. or second-degree robbery for his actions against Dayton.
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