Posted: May 14, 2013 8:44 PM by MTN News
BILLINGS - Barry Beach was denied a new trial today by the Montana Supreme Court and could soon be heading back to prison. Beach told MTN late today he was shocked by the decision.
Beach was convicted of deliberate homicide in 1984 for the death of Kimberly Nees of Poplar. Following several unsuccessful appeals Beach was granted a new trial by District Judge E. Wayne Phillips. Today the Supreme Court reversed that ruling in a split decision 4-3.
"After a review of all the evidence, we conclude that Beach did not provide reliable evidence of his actual innocence," Justice Jim Rice wrote in the decision.
Rice penned the decision for Justices Baker, McKinnon and Simonton who was sitting in for Chief Justice McGrath.
In 1983 Beach confessed to dragging Nees' body to the river and cleaning up the evidence near Poplar, Montana. But now Beach maintains his innocence by claiming the confession was coerced.
In November 2011, a District Court granted Beach a retrial stating there was new evidence which pointed to his innocence.
However, Justice Rice says, "The District Court made the mistake, deliberately, of listening to the new evidence, and failing to closely consider the old evidence."
Justices Morris, Wheat and Cotter disagreed with the decision of the court.
"This ruling marks what likely will be the final chapter in the saga of Barry Beach," Morris wrote in the dissent. "We oversee a criminal justice system that seeks to resolve a defendant's guilt through processes created and administered by humans. Humans, by nature, are fallible and the processes that humans create share this same fallibility."
Morris cited the decision of the lower court stating the testimony of each of Beach's witnesses was "credible and believable."
Since the District Court ruling in 2011, Beach has been released from prison. He will now return to his old life behind bars. It is unclear how quickly that will happen.
Beach's attorney Peter Camiel told MTN tonight they haven't finished reading the entire 90+ page opinion but they are "deeply disappointed" in the decision.