On Tuesday the Associated Press reported that the Montana Supreme Court had ruled 4-3 that “a judge was wrong to release Barry Beach from prison two years ago and order a new trial in the 1979 slaying of a teenage girl.”
The opinion from the Montana Supremes is pretty absurd. Barry Beach does deserve a new trial.
The ruling means Beach will probably go back to prison after being out since December of 2011. He had served about 29 years of the 100 year sentence and had been free awaiting a new trial for almost 18 months. Beach found out about the Montana Supreme Court decision from a reporter. This all seems pretty brutal, but that is pretty much the method of operation for the justice system in Montana.
In case you are wondering what this is all about, it started in 1979 when someone killed 17 year-old Kim Nees near Poplar, Montana. Barry Beach was convicted of that deliberate homicide on April 13, 1984. In May of 1984, he was sentenced to 100 years in the Montana State Prison without the possibility of parole. Beach was given a new evidentiary hearing in November 2008 and was released from prison pending a new trial in December 2011. I happened to catch a story about it on Dateline NBC that aired in 2008. I have followed and written about the case since then.
In my opinion, Montanans should face the fact that our state has one of the most incompetent State Supreme Courts in the country. That incompetence seems to trickle down into the state district courts as well. These judges, who are elected to office, are certainly better politicians than they are judges or attorneys and that’s part of the problem with the justice system in Big Sky Country. Shameful is one of the more merciful words I can use to describe the people who occupy these courts.