Justice and Politics?

I’ve followed the Barry Beach case for quite some time and have felt that he should get a new trial. There just seems to be more questions than answers in his case.

For those of you who haven’t followed the case, Beach was sentenced in 1984 at age 20, to 100 years in prison with no parole for the murder of 17-year-old Kim Nees on the Fort Peck Reservation

I commented about his case HERE and HERE. You can view the website about Barry Beach HERE.

Beach was given a new evidentiary hearing in November 2008. Hopefully, when they get around to having the hearing, he will get a new trial.

After what I read Tuesday, that hearing date may take a little longer. Of course, I have to offer my opinion about the issue.

The Great Falls Tribune reported on Tuesday:

Brant S. Light, assistant attorney general and special deputy Roosevelt County attorney, filed the motion April 20 requesting that District Judge Nels Swandal of Livingston appoint a replacement.

Swandal was appointed to the case April 2.

Why?

The Tribune also reported: “Kevin O’Brien, a spokesman for the attorney general, declined to comment on the state’s motion, which does not say why the state is seeking a new judge.”

By the way, Nels Swandal is running for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court. This is a non-partisan race, but it appears Swandal may lean to the right. As for his opponent I don’t have an idea about her politics either, but from the list of campaign steering committee members on her website, it appears she may lean to the left. This article clears it up a little although they have received contributions from both sides of the political aisle, which is somewhat typical for a race like this.

So it seems to me the request it was probably politics, Mr. O’Brien. Being the judge in the Barry Beach case would undoubtedly given Swandal a lot of exposure, like name recognition. Name recognition is important in a state-wide campaign – especially in a Supreme Court race.

Supreme Court races are not really that interesting to me, but due to this story I took a look at the campaign steering committee for Swandal’s opponent. There’s a very interesting list of people “steering” her campaign. It looks like some committee members even work for the State of Montana, which is not against the rules or anything unless…

I don’t know if the Tribune reporter asked O’Brien if the reason why the AG’s office requested a new judge was because they felt it would give someone that office does not want to see on the Supreme Court an advantage.

But, by declining to comment on the reason, O’Brien left the door wide open for speculation.

Meanwhile, Barry Beach will probably have to wait a little longer for his day in court. We can only hope that politics did not play a role in this case.

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