The Montana Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on a request by Barry Beach for a new sentence.
Beach is serving 100 years without parole for a murder he says he didn’t commit.
Beach was 17 at the time and his lawyers say the sentencing judge failed to consider his age. They argue that recent Supreme Court rulings have rejected life sentences for minors.
Some of the justices at Wednesday’s hearing were skeptical, saying a defendant’s age and other circumstances have always been considered at sentencing.
The judges did not immediately issue a decision.
(December 11, 2014) The next stop for Montana State Prison inmate Barry Beach in his quest to be released is a hearing before the Montana Supreme Court.
The court will hear arguments on February 4th about whether Beach should be re-sentenced because he was 17 at the time of the murder of Kimberly Nees of Poplar.
Beach has served more than 30 years of a 100-year prison sentence for the 1979 murder of Nees. He was convicted a few years later based largely on a confession that he has since claimed was false.
Beach was freed from prison in 2011 for 18 months after a Lewistown judge granted him a new trial. During that time he lived in Billings and traveled the state talking to student and church groups.
The Montana Supreme Court overturned the judge’s ruling and returned Beach to prison to complete his sentence.
In June 2014, the Montana Board of Pardons & Parole rejected his application for clemency.
Defense attorneys now cite recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that limit the circumstances where minors can be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The petition states: “Beach’s sentence violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article II, Sec. 19 of the Montana State Constitution.”
The state argues Beach has made several attempts to overturn his sentence and should not be given any more chances.