A better question might be who’s afraid of the big bad wolf pack?
The corruption in this case runs very deep. So deep that there is no point in denying that there is a large range of potential risks in writing about some of it publicly. Every stone that is turned over in researching this case reveals more and more indications of corruption, some on the part of common criminals, some on the part of those that we should be most able to trust – police officers, attorneys, and judges. And the idea of making any of them too angry is, well, scary.
But the truth in this case is that fear was used like a tool to repress many people. A lack of courage on the part of many was required for justice to be so far miscarried. In this climate, the courage of some is all the more astounding. The earliest truth-tellers in this situation are people to be admired. It seems simple enough to just tell the truth, but as Orwell said, “In times of universal deceit telling the truth becomes of revolutionary act.” It was scary to stand up then, and many didn’t.
There is a quote so often repeated that it is hard to find its original source – “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” It is a powerful idea, and one that applies here. Many, many, many people did not come forward as alibis, or as informants to the actual perpetrators while this case was active because they were afraid. It is understandable, it was a terrifying time, but to move forward we must let go of that fear. Many good people did nothing when this case occurred. That is the past, and we must learn from it, but we must also let it remain the past and walk bravely into a new future.
So, here is a new quote to for a new era:
“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.” – Gandhi
We possess a power greater than those that oppose us because we act from love. On that note, here are some of the highlights of corruption in this case. Sadly, this is the tip of the iceberg:
When the labwork came back and there was NO physical evidence against the Fairbanks Four, the investigators did not pursue other leads. They went “shopping” for jailhouse snitches. One was a woman who claims that she overheard an incriminating statement while she was in jail at FCC the same time as the four. Even though male and female inmates are separated even in general population. Even though the four were being held in isolation, where they made comments of any nature to absolutely no one. The star witness was a man who received leniency in his own crimes (and whose criminal record would make you sick) who agreed to testify that he had seen the four together. From 550 feet away. In the dark. Drunk. High on drugs. Standing with a group of people, some who were sober, who saw nothing. (To be fair, perhaps he got into radioactive goo or something as a child and has super powers).
In the absence of any physical evidence to take to trial, Detective Aaron Ring and Prosecutor Jeffery O’Bryant got together in their hotel room and made some. Don’t bother reading that sentence twice, you did indeed read it right the first time. With young men’s entire FUTURES at stake men sworn to uphold justice, to serve and protect us all, made exhibits for court during a hasty craft hour held in their hotel room. They took a lab-made ink print of George’s boot that was printed on clear overhead type paper. They selected a few slides that did not show all of the tread. They then layed it over a photo of John Hartman’s face. The photo had no scale. It was scientific garbage, but the lab logo would lead the average person to see it as legitimate. With no scale, a picture can be adjusted until its size roughly corresponds with any shoe. The exhibit was not made by a forensic lab, but by a police officer and prosecutor in their hotel room.
In an affidavit filed by John Cayton, the forensic expert the defense employed at the trial, filed post-trial, Mr. Cayton calls the exhibit “extremely misleading,” “troubling,” a “misrepresentation,” and states that, after repeatedly asking the defense attorney for a chance to review the evidence (remember, the defense attorney should have WANTED his expert informed), he was eventually told to get it directly from Aaron Ring, who sent poor quality copies and copies without any scale.
George’s first attorney, Bob Downes, made some other remarkable choices during trial. In addition to not supplying the expert the information he would have needed to testify properly, he did not call any of George’s alibis as witnesses. He also DID NOT OBJECT to the homemade bogus boot exhibit.
Bob Downes had worked with the prosecutor, Jeffery O’Bryant in the past, and knew him personally. After the trial was lost Bob Downes became a judge. He used Jeffery O’Bryant as a reference, and got the job. You can read his application/resume HERE.
No other suspects were investigated. Even though John Hartman’s brother had received a phone call warning him that his brother might be in danger the same night that he was killed. Even though Chris Stone, the person last seen alive with the victim, had astounding inaccuracies in his statement. Even though the victim was found wearing his pants. Even though he had suffered a similar beating a few weeks earlier and had refused to name his assailants. Even though there was never ever any evidence that any of the accused knew the victim or would have had any reason to harm him. Even though Chris Stone left a disturbing message for a friend that night, even though that friend asked police to get a copy, even though she went to the police station that day to make a statement that she thought Chris Stone was not being honest. EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE.
All interrogations in Alaska are required by law to be taped. George insists, and Crystal Sisto also insists, that his interrogation began long before a tape recorder came on. Read transcripts of the interrogation HERE and decide if that seems to be the case. You can also read the post about his interrogation HERE.
Eugene Vent was a minor and had the right to have a parent present. They told him that, but read about his interrogation HERE and ask yourself if they really believed he had understood all of his rights.
There is no recorded Blood Alcohol Level for George Frese on record anywhere. Interesting, considering that he had drank beer and liquor all night, hard liquor all morning and into the afternoon. Unusual, since it seems that an intoxicated underage patient would typically have a blood alcohol test. It makes you wonder…..is there a blood alcohol content at which a person must receive medical treatment and cannot be interrogated? Is there a blood alcohol content at which a person is considered legally incompetent and their statements could be voided? If there was one taken, how did it disappear?
The key players in this case received serious promotions following the “successful” outcome. These boys made the list of his notable accomplishments when Jeffery O’Bryant’s promotion to Fairbanks District Attorney was announced. Check that out HERE
Add to that the MANY PAGES of details that we will need time to write down. Add to that controversies that we are still afraid to write down. Add to that corruption we have not unearthed. And add this final quote to your mind for times when you want to blend into the flock because you are afraid:
“Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you.” Benjamin Franklin
There are many people in our community who know who committed this crime and have remained quiet out of fear. To you we say, muster your courage. Put your faith in the idea that to act from love gives you great power. Remember that fear does not make you safe, it makes you sheep. And the wolves are out there.
My name is Diane Malcolm and I have been really reading about this case. I had an idea if you could put their story on Dateline so they could tell their side of the story. I really think that this case should come to an end if it goes publicly. I feel that they have been wrongly convicted and need justice done right. They should have had a fair trial.
The attorneys appointed to represent these four were not skilled criminal defense attorneys. I believe some did their best within the resources allotted to them, but at least one just “phoned it in”; chatting and joking with the prosecutor outside the courtroom. In Marvin’s case, his family hired the best that Fairbanks had to offer at the time, but my reading of his performance was that he was over-confident. He seemed so convinced that any half-way intelligent juror would be able to see right through the trumped up charges, that he failed to call enough credible witnesses. There were a number of stronger witnesses in Marvin’s case — people not drinking that night who had clear knowledge of where he was at what time; strong alibi witnesses that were not called to testify at trial. There were things that Marvin’s attorney should have caught…the fact that Arlo Olsen testified that he did not know Marvin; had not met him. The jury clearly believed otherwise, which made Arlo’s identification of Marvin in the dark of night across the length of a football field less incredible. The prosecutor made his “Spartacus” speech impugning the honesty of every Alaska Native witness; implying “they” would all lie to cover up for each other. That speech also reinforced the idea in the minds of the jury that ALL Alaska Natives know each other…and know each other well enough that they can identify each other in the dark of night. Reading the transcripts after the trial was over, I immediately noticed a discrepancy in Arlo Olsen’s testimony — he described a conversation that placed Eugene and George and Kevin in Marvin’s car. Immediately I knew he was lying. He said that one of them in the back seat leaned out the window to talk to him. And yet Marvin’s little car did not have rear windows that opened. If I could see that at a glance, then Marvin’s attorney should also have noticed this and used it to discredit Arlo’s lies. Instead, Arlo’s testimony went largely unchallenged. The prosecutor and police fabricated evidence and built a case on lies, but the failure of the defense attorneys is just as troubling.
I think if this could go before a much larger audience, maybe it can be looked into harder by more qualified investigators. I know going on DATELINE would be good, Americas most wanted, or hopefully someone will come forward with more information.
The jail house snitch they refer too, Arlo Olsen, admits that this case ruined his life. He is still not welcome around fairbanks area. The prosecutor, jeff watever, and the future judge, downes, really made bad decisions. They ruined alot of lives.
Also this is the Chris Stone, found him on facebook and wrote him this ” are you the same Chris Stone involved in that murder investigation in Alaska? The four dude who are spending life in jail for this bullshit were friends of mine. I’m wondering if you really did tell the cops everything you knew? Its been years man, come clean and get this case moving again.
How could you live with that burden?”
Unfortunately he has his emails blocked, so I hope he reads this here.
I gotta say I believe that Chris Stone was nothing but a scared kid in 1997….I just pray he is a man now, that if he has the keys to this thing that he finds a way to set these guys free…..they deserve it. They have already forgiven him for not coming forward back then, they are just waiting for him to do the right thing. I hope he does, pray he does.
they had their day in court. they are all drunks and should be locked up forever. think about that poor boys family. stop wasting peoples time and money on this crap. their appeals were thrown out for a reason. the justice system works. leave well enough alone. they will rot in jail as they should.
Ian thank you for reading, regardless of what conclusion you come to. There is incredible evidence, irrefutable evidence, that our justice system does not work all the time. If you are interested in any of the research and facts about wrongful convictions, the innocence project website is a good place to look around. http://www.innocenceproject.org/understand/
One of the hardest things about this case is indeed thinking of the family. It breaks my heart to think that we may cause them pain when we bring this case back up. But, remember, John Hartman’s own mother believed the truth had not been found. The family suffered an unimaginable loss, and then they were victimized by the justice system as well.
These four men are not drunks, they are people, with many sides to them, like with all people. And regardless of what you think of their characters, the evidence points to them being innocent of this crime, and I think we can all agree that innocent people should not be in jail. People spend time and money because they see injustice and want to work to fix it. This site is full of information, and if you are willing to read it all you may come to the same conclusion. Either way the act of inquiring is admirable.
The legal ins and outs are complicated. Before this case I believed COMPLETELY, BLINDLY in our justice system. So when four men were convicted of a crime that NO physical evidence tied them to I wanted to KNOW how. In the process of looking, what I found was incredible, and it changed how I viewed this issue as well.
I feel that there is a lot of anger in this comment, but want to discourage nastiness from other posters directed toward this commentator.
Remember, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
There are many Alaska Natives who are or who have been incarcerated for violent crimes including murder. Once the trial and sentencing is complete, these people are largely forgotten; thought of only by their families and closest friends. The greater Native community recognizes when justice has been done. This case is different and that fact should be apparent to the most casual reader. It hasn’t gone away and it isn’t going to go away because in this case, justice has not been done. Justice, for many reasons, in this case has been perverted. Members of the Alaska Native community and other close to the Alaska Native community who know the players and know the circumstances know that this crime was not committed by these four young men. Frankly, anyone who takes the time to read the real facts of the case — and by this I mean the transcripts of the interrogations; statements of witnesses; as well as the transcripts of the trial — would also know that charges should never have been filed against these four boys. Making the statement “the justice system works” demonstrates a sad lack of knowledge about the true nature of our justice system.
Or maybe it demonstrates something else entirely. Very callous statements indeed, almost too callous.
I definitely don’t think it insinuates that he had anything to do with it – his alibis were airtight, and like these four was just a nice, normal kid. He just happened to have the ability to stand up to the worst kind of bullying. I wouldn’t think callous – more like gutsy.
I remember reading about Hartman’s death in the DNM, it was the talk of the town…it all seemed too quick to me but very familiar…being an African-American we know the justice system DOES NOT work for non-whites most of the time. Being rotated up to Alaska in the 80’s was in a way like going back in time. I had never lived in a town so small and heavily populated by the beautiful original people of this land. We were fascinated and held them in high regard. Soon we saw that “they” too still suffered from the same bigotry and injustice as we in the lower 48. As soon as the news broke about that poor young boy’s murder and how he was found…something clicked. Ohh no…he’s white…ohh nooooo! The question came instantly, “who are they going to blame for this?” Blacks don’t stay in numbers large enough to pose a threat here I thought…I bet it’ll be what they call here ” a native ” . In no time flat… Boom, there it was…WE FOUND THEM! 4 NATIVES brutally murdered young Mr. Hartman for no reason other than he was white and alone…! GUILTY. I remember talking about it among other military blacks on post and the feeling was the same…Ahh, so, they do it here too. No different, just a another ethnic to prey upon. The “natives” are the “blacks” here in Alaska. I also recalled, that because of this case so many of my friends got out of this small town as soon as their Post terms were up… “I’m not staying here for another 3 years”, they said..it’s too cold, it’s a Red State and we see how they treat the natives here…this is frozen “redneck” country!! It’s beautiful and the animals here…wow… but the police are bigoted and corrupt along with the court system, well…sadly familiar and if you get into trouble you won’t be heard or defended. A new 4 year old term was floating around at the time, an idiomatic phrase and rhetorical device regarding this (The Race Card) was used . But it was used as a defense against any questioning of the so-called evidence against these 4 men by the Prosecution(Oh…OHH IT’S BECAUSE THEIR NATIVE, blah, blah.. oh here they go with that tired excuse!! ). This was all I heard from the white and many 2nd Generation blacks up here as well…IT was unreal and caught fire. It worked and nullified their chances of a fair trial. This case NEEDS…no MUST be re-opened. I love this town but I hate this tired, corrupt and sadly familiar Justice system. May Mr. Hartman finally get justice.
Thanks for your comment…..it is sad, but good to know that people from other parts of the community are noticing the racism here, as well as noticing problems with this case from the beginning.
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I don’t think that using any type of race card would help this case. I would suggest everyone keep focused on the larger problem here which is 4 guys were charged for a crime that they did not commit. Using racism will only work the wrong way, and by saying this I don’t dispute any part of whether it is true or not. The larger goal is to free these guys. Proving or trying to prove racism, I believe, will only side track the case and blur the message.
These guys are sitting in jail right now for a crime they did not commit. That is not justice. There is no time to add anything that would take away from the most important issue. Law entities will never admit to their wrong or wrongs possibly due to the impact that it has on the community. Clearly there is more to this story than what is presented to the public. There are a lot of details that are just beneath the surface and now, thanks to the internet, the truth is starting to reveal itself to the those with the shovel. You don’t have to dig far to learn things that the system tried to bury. The real truth about the justice system is this: You are guilty until you buy your freedom back. The system takes what the system wants. You are better controlled within that system than you are while you live anonymously. The justice system is fatally flawed and it is broken. Look around and you’ll easily see the evidence of that too.
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