On May 3, 1983, Barry Beach was charged with deliberate homicide in the District Court of the 15th Judicial District, Roosevelt County, Montana. He pled not guilty to the charges and the case was tried to the jury from April 9th to April 13th, 1984. Barry Beach was found guilty.
Judgment was entered on May 11, 1984. He was sentenced to a term of 100 years without possibility of parole. He appealed to the Montana Supreme Court which affirmed the conviction on July 25, 1985. State v. Beach, 705 P.2d 94 (Montana 1985).
In April of 1992, Barry Beach filed a petition for habeas corpus relief in Federal District Court. On August 5, 1993, the Magistrate Judge issued a recommendation that the petition be dismissed because it contained both exhausted and unexhausted claims. On September 28, 1993, the Federal District Judge issued an order granting an indefinite stay pending the exhaustion of state remedies.
On October 30, 1995, Barry Beach filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Montana Supreme Court. On February 8, 1996, that court issued an order denying his petition.
On February 16, 1996, the stay issued by the Federal District Court was lifted and the case proceeded after referral to a magistrate. Counsel for Barry Beach filed a motion for discovery on April 1, 1996 which was denied on July 3, 1996. Briefing on the substantive issues continued for approximately the next year and on August 6, 1997, the United States Magistrate Judge issued his findings and recommendation denying the petition for writ of habeas corpus. Barry Beach’s attorney filed his objections to those findings.
On April 21, 1998, the District Court Judge issued his final order denying the petition for writ of habeas corpus. Barry Beach then appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. His appeal was denied by the Ninth Circuit in a decision entered on August 30, 1999. Barry Beach then filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. The petition was denied.
Barry Beach then filed a petition for DNA testing in the District Court of the 15th Judicial District in Roosevelt County. A hearing was held before the District Court Judge and an order was issued permitting DNA testing of evidence. The hair evidence at issue which was sought to be DNA tested could not be located and so no DNA testing has been conducted on that evidence. DNA testing was conducted on cuttings from a bloody towel found near the scene of the crime. That testing resulted in findings that the blood stains did not come from either Barry Beach or Kimberly Nees.
In August of 2005, Barry Beach, pro se, filed an application for sentence commutation with the state of Montana Board of Pardons. That application was denied in a decision issued November 30, 2005 wherein the board stated:
“After duly considering your application for executive clemency in accordance with Sections 46-23-301 and 46-23-316, MCA, and in accordance with the Board of Pardons and Paroles Administrative Rules of Montana 20.25.901 and 20.25.902, the Board has by unanimous vote concluded that insufficient cause appears to necessitate a public hearing and orders that your clemency application be denied. In the Board’s opinion, you have not satisfactorily proven your innocence of the crime or submitted newly discovered evidence showing complete justification or non-guilt. Additionally, you have not satisfactorily proven that further incarceration would be grossly unfair and that the board was unable to identify sufficient extraordinary, mitigating or extenuating circumstances.”
In response to an outcry among Montanans familiar with the case and media attention, the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole relented to an unprecedented hearing on the evidence of Barry Beach’s innocence and his fitness for life outside of prison should clemency be granted. The board’s written decision was undisguised in its animus towards Centurion Ministries and towards the Montana citizens who testified in support of Barry Beach. In a decision rife with numerous misstatements of critical facts, the board dismissed the massive preponderance of evidence demonstrating Barry Beach’s innocence with the flimsiest of explanations, and in some instances less than that. And yet, despite the very troubled circumstances of his conviction, the board still rejected any consideration of clemency. In the ultimate catch-22, the board rejected even the possibility of parole for Barry Beach because he was “remorseless” and refused to admit his guilt.