GREAT FALLS -
Supporters of convicted killer Barry Beach came together for a prayer vigil in Great Falls on Friday to mark two years since Beach was sent back to the Montana State Prison. The wet and cold weather did not stop nearly three dozen people from showing their support.
Supporters believe Beach was wrongly convicted for the 1979 murder of Kimberly Nees of Poplar. In 1983, Beach was sentenced to 100 years in prison for the murder.
Throughout his legal battle, Beach has maintained his innocence, saying his confession to the crime was coerced.
Four years ago, Beach was granted a new trial, and was set free while the state appealed. Eighteen months later, the Montana Supreme Court reversed the lower court's ruling, and Beach found himself back at the state prison in Deer Lodge.
On Friday, the group walked from the Missouri River Federal Building on the west side of the river to the band shell at Paris Gibson Park.
After the prayer vigil started, the group received a phone call from Beach.
He told them, "I want to first of all thank everyone for their efforts today, and with compassion of your hearts that force you to stand in the cold like you are doing right now. And I know that beyond compassionate, that it's difficult to expect and feel justice and truth in the state of Montana," Beach said.
Gayla Bastas, one of the organizers of Friday's vigil, said, "It's important for people to know that they do have a voice. We have found that already that we have been able to make changes in what we see as injustice, and so we encourage everybody who is wanting to see cases like this examined better, we want them to join in and show their support for Barry."
A similar event is planned Saturday in Billings. Called the "Walk of Integrity," supporters will retrace the steps Beach took to turn himself in two years ago.
The event begins at 10:30 a.m. at Stella's Restaurant/Clock Tower Inn at 2525 1st Avenue North. At 11:30 a.m., supporters will gather on the lawn of the Yellowstone County courthouse. Beach's mother, Bobbi Clincher, is expected to speak at the event.
(March 24, 2015) Montana governor Steve Bullock recently signed a new clemency bill, which could pave the way to freedom for convicted killer Barry Beach.
House Bill 43 picked up bipartisan support in the Montana House of Representatives and the Montana Senate before the governor sealed the deal on Friday.
Lawyers for Beach said they will be ready to file for a new clemency hearing as soon as the law takes effect on October 1st.
Beach remains in the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge serving 100-year sentence for the 1979 murder of Poplar teenager Kimberly Nees. Beach has maintained his innocence.
The new law gives the governor the power to release state prisoners, even if clemency was denied by the Montana Board of Pardons & Parole.
Bullock has already expressed his position on the Beach case, having written a letter to the parole board last year recommending clemency.
The parole board denied the application.
Supporters of convicted killer Barry Beach came together for a prayer vigil in Great Falls on Friday (MTN News photo)
Supporters received a phone call from Barry Beach (MTN News photo)