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Barry Beach Hopes Parole Board Considers Gov. Bullock's Letter

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MISSOULA - Four days before his application for clemency goes before the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole, Barry Beach says all he can do, is hope for the best.

This is a story that dates back more than 30 years and has grabbed national-- and even international-- headlines ever since.

In 1984 a jury convicted Beach of the 1979 murder of Kimberly Nees on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Beach confessed he'd committed the crime, but has maintained his innocence for the past 30 years.

In December 2011, a district court judge granted Beach a new trial after new evidence arose. He was freed from prison and lived and worked in Billings for the next year and a half.

Then, last May, the Montana Supreme Court reversed the district court ruling and sent Beach back to prison, where he's been ever since.

On Wednesday, Governor Steve Bullock wrote a letter to the Board, urging them to consider whether or not Beach has spent enough time in prison.

On Friday over the phone, Beach said he's grateful the governor made a move in support of his clemency.

He said he's hoping the Board will take the governor's letter into consideration before they decide whether or not he should be eligible for parole.

"Well, I was absolutely amazed that the governor would have the open mindedness and courage to write such a letter," he said.

Beach is anxiously awaiting the decision to be made by the Board of Pardons and Parole on Tuesday.

"And this isn't about guilt or innocence at this stage, this is about simply making me parole eligible," Beach said.

In his letter, Governor Bullock writes that Beach has served 30 years for a crime committed as a juvenile, he's conducted himself appropriately in and out of prison, and if his sentence was commuted, he'd still be under state supervision.

"I think all of that can be taken into consideration and the parole board can make their recommendation to the governor in the near future," he said.

And Beach said it couldn't come soon enough.

"It's been really hard, it's been extremely, extremely hard this time."

Beach says when he was sent back to prison after a brief period of freedom, the stress has landed his mother in the hospital twice and taken a toll on his own livelihood.

"The weight has just been extremely challenging to our emotions."

But, Beach said Montanans have a true belief in the judicial system and they expect that system to operate under guidelines of truth and honesty.

"Which is displayed, you know, in the reaction to me being brought back to prison under such questionable circumstances."

People across the state have rallied in support of Beach's clemency and his innocence.

"I've become amazed at the outcry of the people of Montana and actually around the world, you wouldn't believe the international communications and support that I have as well."

Although he will not be present at the hearing, dozens are expected to testify on Beach's behalf.

"I don't even know these people, and yet they have committed their lives to standing with me," he said.

The Board will meet in Deer Lodge on Tuesday to review Beach's application for clemency.

If the Board approves Beach's application, it will go to Governor Bullock for approval. If they do not approve it, Beach must wait another five years before he can reapply.
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