Newspaper stories, letters to the editor, UAF Journalism reports and other Hartman murder coverage.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner series-opening editorial about the lingering impact John Hartman's murder has had on the community and the paper's support for the independant investigation by former staff reporter and Opinion page editor Brian O'Donoghue and his UAF Journalism students.
Transcripts of Fairbanks Correctional Center detainee Arlo Olson's taped conversations with UAF Journalism professor Brian Patrick O'Donoghue. Olson was aware that O'Donoghue was reporting on the case and that their conversations were on the record. He was not aware that he was being taped, a practice legal under Alaska law so long as one party to the conversation is aware.
Confident they had righteous confessions, Fairbanks detectives investigating John Hartman's murder discounted tips about other suspects. The victim's last known companion, Chris Stone, a-14-year-old self-described meth user, attracted no scruitiny though he'd been hospitalized from a similar beating only weeks before. Stone refused to name his assailants until they were arrested midway throuigh the Hartman trials for murdering a local cab driver. Even then, police refused to reexamine the assumptions that shaped the Hartman murder investigation, leaving a host of questions unanswered to this day.
More than a decade later many, including Olson, question whether he or anyone could recognize the faces of muggers robbing a man more than 500 feet away, on a dark October night, after hours of heavily drinking and partying.
Decade of Doubt part 5: "No physical evidence" Fairbanks detectives court jailhouse informants as evidence collected at the crime scene and Martin Robert's alleged getaway car fails to link any of the suspects to John Hartman's fatal beating. As the first trial begins, Fairbanks Police and the district attorney assemble a suggestive exhibitm bearing the Alaska crim lab's logo, purporting to show George Frese's boot tread matched the victim's bruises. A state pathologist working his first murder case changes his autopsey findings after viewing the exhibit. The former crime lab technician who prepared overlays used in the state's exhibit now says he failed to confirm any match between the boot and victim's facial bruises, but he never reported that finding.
Confessions from a pair of young drunken Alaska Native men, one of whom is 17, spur police to swiftly arrest four suspected of murdering 15-year-old John Hartman. Interrogation methods used obtaining those confessions, including police lies about evidence in hand, while standard practice in '97, have since been linked to false confessions revealed through DNA exonerations. The tape recording of Eugene Vent's interrogation abruptly ends as the detective asks the suspect to mark the victim's location in the intersection. Transcripts show that other facts about the crime collected in the interrogations of both Vent and George Frese first surface in the detectives' questions.
Decade of Doubt part 3: "Wildnight downtown" Detectives summoned to a presumed murder scene appear to catch a break when the hotel dispatcher reporting an armed assault suggests the teen found dying several blocks away was among the crowd parting earlier at Alaska Motel.
The discovery of a battered teen sprawled across the curb in downtown Fairbanks sets in motion a grim series of events. Even as medics rush the unidentified, comotose, victim toward the hospital, detectives are summoned to collect evidence at the crimescene of a presumed murder case.
This opening installment of a seven-part newsaper series examines how John Hartman's brutal 1997 murder has undermined Alaska Native confidence in the justice system. Fairbanks Police declared the 15-year-old's murder neatly solved based upon confessions obtained from two young Native men arrested within hours of the crime. A group of four were arrested and convicted, despite claims of innocence, in a series of high-profile trials. More than a decade later legal challenges continue along with annual street protests, attesting to the doubts many still hold regarding the Hartman verdicts.