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Barry Beach will soon get another shot at freedom.
The convicted killer who’s served more than 30 years in prison for a murder he says he did not commit will have a new appeal heard by Montana’s Supreme Court in February 2015.
Beach’s latest appeal centers on the fact that he was 17 at the time of the murder of Kimberly Nees in 1979. Beach’s lawyers say his sentence of 100 years without the possibility of parole runs counter to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions calling such sentences unconstitutional for juveniles.
Montana’s Attorney General’s office declined comment on this latest development, but it has long opposed Beach’s release. In its brief to the court, the AG argues that Beach’s sentence is not only constitutional, but appropriate, and has been reviewed many times before. The AG’s brief says that Beach “repeatedly manages to be the beneficiary of hearings and procedures that no other convicted criminal is allowed. Beach is entitled to nothing more.”
Beach has long claimed innocence in the case, and has said a confession he gave to authorities was coerced. No physical evidence links Beach to the crime. Since Dateline first began reporting on the Beach case in 2008, more than a dozen new witnesses have come forward with information about the murder.
In 2011, a Montana judge granted Beach’s request for a new trial and freed Beach on bond. But after 18 months, Beach was returned to prison to resume his sentence after Montana’s Supreme Court voted 4-3 to overturn the lower court’s decision.
Earlier this year, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to grant Beach clemency, despite pleas from Montana’s Governor, and a host of current and former elected officials.
Once the appeal is heard in February, the clerk of Montana’s Supreme Court says a decision is expected within 3-6 months. If Beach loses this appeal, the earliest he could be eligible for parole is in 2036.
If you'd like to watch our most recent report on the case, you can go here: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/dateline/52659380#52659485