Dateline   |  August 02, 2013

'Return to Poplar River' Part 5

After 29 years behind bars, Barry is granted a new trial and freed from prison.  

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> when barry beach left this montana courtroom, the judge promised a ruling soon, which meant that barry beach went to his prison cell , ticked off days and weeks and months into the fall. you can't get your hopes up too much, can you? you have been whacked so often.

>> it is hard to keep your belief up sometimes but he had been faithful.

>> and then november, 2011 , the decision. a 30 page ruling. it was just hours before the thanksgiving holiday. judge e. wayne phillips ruled there was clear and convincing evidence a jury could find barry beach an innocent man. for almost 30 years, beach had been hearing the word no. and now finally this time it was yesterday. not freedom, not yet, but at least this, a chance to clear his name for good. judge phillips granted a new trial.

>> i had just sat down to watch the news and i just started praising god. i was just -- it was so emotional for me.

>> it doesn't get any sweeter than this, especially because of all the bitterness that barry had experienced with this case. but finally here was a man, a judicial authority, who heard the evidence and agreed that if a future jury hears this evidence, they would find mr. beach innocent.

>> and here was something very unusual, after granting barry beach a new trial, judge e. wayne phillips agreed to sit down with "dateline" and explain his decision.

>> i mean, how could you rule as i did on the evidence i had and not think about whether the guy should just be set free .

>> the judge stopped free of declaring barry beach innocent. after all, there was that old confession on file. but once he heard stephy talk about hearing the murder happen.

>> it was that linchpin that convinced me a jury properly instructed would have said i've got doubt. i have reasonable doubt about this man's guilt.

>> and then the judge not only granted beach a new trial but at least until that trial much, much more.

>> it is this court's determination that it can release mr. beach on his own recognizance .

>> as the state's attorneys vowed to appeal, barry beach was hustled out of the courthouse to a jail down the street, the paperwork was done. and minutes later for the first time in three decades, he was free.

>> hello, mom.

>> safely in the arms of a woman who through it all has always been with him.

>> what was that like?

>> unreal, absolutely unreal. citizens didn't even know me, stopped, honking their horns, waving, congratulating. and it has been like that ever since.

>> after his release, barry lived in billings, montana with restaurant owner stella and zig zigler . he met him through prison ministries.

>> as soon as he got out, cell phone , computer, zip zip zip, he worked at someday i'm going to get out and i'll be ready.

>> he started his own maintenance company and parlayed that into job of head of maintenance at a billings motel. barry 's boss.

>> he was overseeing 3 and $400,000 remodeling projects, had a staff of five people, plus he was part of our senior management team.

>> after eight months, barry received permission from the judge to live on his own and fixed up this house, was working to buy it so his mom could eventually move in. he traveled all over montana , responding to requests to tell his story.

>> bet you he did at least 50 speeches.

>> did he have a message for people that resonated with them?

>> hope. there's always hope.

>> he has a connection with people, no matter whether it was a politician or a banker he connected with them.

>> ex- police officer tom hammel became a friend.

>> he was trying to do his best to fit into the community, to be one of a respectful citizen.

>> after three decades behind bars, barry beach lived life. he learned to ski, went horseback riding and fishing, enjoyed rodeos, made new friends.

>> life is like ice cream . there's 64 flavors of ice cream , you have to try them all.

>> all the while knowing the state of montana was appealing the judge's ruling and intended if necessary to put him on trial again for the murder. he, after all, confessed to it more than 30 years ago. it was a day in court barry said he was eager for, to help find the truth.

>> justice for kim nees is not going to be served until the whole truth is discovered. and the preparation for a new trial gives me more of an opportunity to discover that truth.

>> you a little worried about it?

>> no, my god didn't put me where i'm sitting at now to let me down.

>> but of course no one can predict the future, no matter how we all may try.

>> always knew this kind of sword was hanging over his head, could happen any time.

>> he talked about on many occasions i know it is out there, but down deep in our heart, we never thought the probability would finally come.

>> but it comes, the future comes, like it or not.