FAIRBANKS -- An Alaska Native group is offering a reward for information about the killing of a teenager who was beaten and stomped to death in downtown Fairbanks.
Jerry Isaac, president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner the 42 tribes of the region do not think justice has been served in the killing of John Hartman, who was 15 when he died in 1997.
Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent and George Frese were convicted of the crime and are serving long sentences in a Colorado prison. Isaac said Native leaders believe the four men are innocent, and the Tanana Chiefs Conference is offering $5,500 dollars for information.
In March 2010, demonstrators rallied outside the Tanana Chiefs Conference Convention in support of the four men. The roughly two dozen participants sang, chanted and held placards decrying the imprisonment as wrongful.
The Anchorage-based Alaska Innocence Project recently took up the case. The chairman of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Journalism Department and journalism students have volunteered to assist the Innocence Project, which often relies on DNA evidence to overturn cases.
DNA evidence, however, is not available in connection with the Hartman murder, so the effort to exonerate the convicted men involves examining what's available and looking for new evidence.
UAF journalism department chairman Brian O'Donoghue has said the Hartman convictions are largely circumstantial and that he believes the convictions are based on witness misidentification, bad science and flawed confessions.