The Latest: Ex-judge applauds man's release in 1979 killing

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Posted: Nov 20, 2015 4:41 PM
The Latest: Ex-judge applauds man's release in 1979 killing

DEER LODGE, Mont. (AP) — The latest in the clemency granted to a Montana man convicted in a 1979 murder he has long denied (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

A retired Montana judge says the state's governor was right to release Barry Beach from prison four years after the judge unsuccessfully sought a retrial in Beach's 1984 murder conviction.

Former District Judge E. Wayne Phillips spoke Friday to The Associated Press after Beach was granted clemency in the 1979 killing of a 17-year-old high school classmate, Kimberly Nees.

Beach maintained his innocence throughout the three decades he spent in prison. He claimed his 1983 confession in the case was coerced.

Regardless of Beach's innocence or guilt, Phillips says Beach proved he was reformed by staying employed and out of trouble when he was free for 18 months awaiting a new trial.

The state Supreme Court overruled Phillips and ordered Beach back to prison in 2013.

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1 p.m.

The cousin of a Montana woman who was killed in 1979 says the state's governor should be ashamed for granting a clemency request to a man who spent three decades in prison for the crime.

Glenna Nees Lockman said "Oh, my God, that's not right" upon hearing news that 53-year-old Barry Beach was being freed Friday.

Beach was serving a 100-year sentence with no possibility of parole in Kimberly Nees' killing in the small town of Poplar, in the northeast corner of the state.

Lockman for years was among the hundreds of supporters who believed in Beach's innocence.

She says she became uncertain over the past two years, after Beach was released for a retrial but sent back to prison when the state Supreme Court blocked the proceedings.

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12:30 p.m.

Barry Beach has walked out of the Montana State Prison after serving three decades behind bars for a 1979 killing that he long denied.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock signed a clemency order allowing his release Friday.

Flanked by supporters, the 53-year-old Beach told reporters he expected "a lot of healing and a lot of tears" during the four-hour drive back to his Billings home.

Beach described the moment of his release as "surreal" and said he didn't know it was coming until his lawyer, Peter Camiel, showed up at the prison Friday morning.

Bullock commuted Beach's 100-year-sentence to time served with 10 years suspended. Beach will remain on probation for 10 years. He was convicted in the killing of a high school classmate but maintained his confession was coerced.

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11:45 a.m.

Montana's governor has freed a man who maintained his innocence throughout three decades in prison for the murder of a high school classmate.

Gov. Steve Bullock on Friday signed a clemency order allowing for the release of 53-year-old Barry Beach. His release is effective at noon.

Beach was convicted of deliberate homicide and sentenced to 100 years in prison for the 1979 beating death of 17-year-old Kimberly Nees on northeastern Montana's Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

Bullock noted Beach was a 17-year-old juvenile at the time and had exhibited good behavior in prison.

Beach claimed his subsequent confession to Louisiana authorities was coerced. His cause was taken up by hundreds of supporters including Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and former Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns.

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11:30 a.m.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is expected to decide Friday if a man imprisoned for a 1979 murder that he's long denied should be released after three decades behind bars.

Fifty-three-year-old Barry Beach is serving a 100-year sentence at Montana State Prison in the beating death of high school classmate Kimberly Nees in the small town of Poplar, in northeast Montana.

Both Beach and Nees were 17 years old.

Beach has said his 1983 confession to the crime to Louisiana authorities was coerced.

Bullock has suggested he would look favorably on a clemency request because Beach was a juvenile at the time of the crime and has shown good behavior in prison.