Court sees video deposition in ‘Fairbanks Four’ hearing

A video deposition of a man implicated in the 1997 John Hartman murder in Fairbanks, was played in court Wednesday.

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The interview of Jason Wallace aired as part of an evidenciary hearing being conducted to determine if four other men, convicted of the crime, are innocent.

The Wallace deposition offered no new insight into the Hartman attack, as Wallace repeatedly invoked the 5th amendment right not to self-incriminate.

Meanwhile Judge Paul Lyle refuted state attorney’s attempts to suppress earlier statements Wallace made about his involvement to attorneys in 2003, while initially jailed for an unrelated killing for which he’s now serving life in prison.

Judge Lyle says Wallace’s recently leaked statements about the Hartman attack can’t be used against him, but will be put into the court record.

“If Mr. Wallace were ever charged with anything, or any civil suit were ever filed against Mr. Wallace related to what he said to his attorney, those statements would not be admissible under the current rules, but they’re admissible in this proceeding,” he said.

Judge Lyle emphasized that it’s still to be decided if Wallace’s statements about the Hartman attack will be considered in determining the innocence of the four other men convicted of the crime.

“Whether or not they are admitted for hearsay purposes, is the next level of analysis,” Lyle said.

Wallace’s 2003 statement says he and friends randomly targeted 15-year-old John Hartman on a downtown street.

His accounting is to some degree backed by a more recent confession from former Fairbanks friend William Holmes, who’s also serving life for other killings. Holmes testified Monday that he drove the car, while Wallace and others went after Hartman.

The hearing is expected to continue through October, after which judge Paul Lyle could exonerate the men convicted of the Hartman killing.

George Frese, Eugene Vent, and Kevin Pease remain jailed. Marvin Roberts is out on parole, and the only one of so called Fairbanks Four attending the hearing in person.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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