Barry Beach got a hearing last week in front of the Board of Pardons as part of his ongoing effort to have his life sentence amended to make it possible for him to be paroled. He’s served 22 years for a crime he says he didn’t commit and his conviction was based entirely upon a confession that he says was coerced out of him.
Dozens of citizens testified for Beach, but only Marc Racicot, who is the former governor, and Ed Corrigan, a Flathead County prosecutor who has no connection at all to the case, testified against Beach. And only Corrigan actually showed up. Racicot, who was the prosecuting attorney at Beach’s trial in the early 1990s, sent a letter to the Board but refused to appear at the hearing. He did, however, have a secret meeting with members of the hearing panel, at least according to John Adams of the Great Falls Tribune. If so, such behavior is unbecoming and cowardly.
The Board will now have to decide whether to recommend to governor Bullock that Beach be made parole-eligible. Beach has already been out of prison because a judge threw out his conviction and Beach spent a year and a half showing exemplary behavior, and everyone from Conrad Burns to Jon Tester to Brian Schweitzer has gone on record supporting parole for him. Racicot, of course, is not really advocating against Beach, but rather for himself, to try to erase a dubious legacy. In his prosecution of Beach he took improper actions in court that in today’s legal system might get him sanctioned and might be grounds for a mistrial. He informed the jury, for example, that certain incriminating DNA and physical evidence existed which linked Beach to the crime scene. But he never presented any of it and it didn’t exist.
I would think that someone in Racicot’s shoes would want to do exactly the opposite–try to make things right or at least work to rectify the flimsy prosecution that resulted in a questionable conviction and allow it to be redressed by giving Beach parole. But apparently Racicot’s Republican blood runs too strong.