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KNBA News - Fbks 4 witness: "He let the Holmes confession... languish on his desk for two years"


State investigators critical of police work

By Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Two Alaska State Troopers hired in 2013 to re-investigate the 1997 John Hartman murder case testified in state court in Fairbanks Monday. Jim Gallen and Randy McPherron took the stand on day six of a month-long evidentiary hearing prompted by men known as “The Fairbanks 4”, who claim they were wrongly convicted of Hartman’s beating death. The 2011 Holmes confession that’s become central to the Fairbanks Four post-conviction relief filings was  not promptly acted on by Fairbanks police.

Trooper Investigator Jim Gallen testified the memo was not included in the department’s Hartman murder case evidence record. But he found it in January 2014 while going through a box of case interview tapes at the station.

“Inside of it was this memo that I had not seen before,” said Gallen.

Gallen said he was surprised to find such an important case document stashed in a file.

“We had not seen it before and it would have been nice to have it,” said Gallen.

Gallen said he asked long-time Fairbanks police Lt.  Jim Geier about it.

“Geier looked at it and said…, and about that time Det. Thompson walks in. And he says, ‘Det. Thompson is good at finding these things on the Internet. I believe he found it on the Internet,’” said Gallen. He continued, “Thompson seemed confused, kind of nodded in agreement. We didn’t pursue it anymore.”

Former FPD detective Chris Nolan testified last week that he let the Holmes confession memo languish on his desk for two years but gave it to Lt. Geier in September 2013 when the Fairbanks Four filed their suit.

How long the state knew about the memo is also at issue.

Gallen said state prosecutor and assistant attorney general Adrienne Bachman refused to release email communications about it.

“I recall investigator McPherron asking access to these emails, and Ms. Bachman told him we were not getting it,” testified Gallen.

Gallen testified that the 15-month investigation of the Hartman murder case was incomplete when terminated in by the state in January of this year


Elders and Youth conference mixes art, tradition, and learning

By Jennifer Canfield, KTOO - Juneau

IndiGenius  — a play on the word indigenous — is an offering of afternoon workshops every year at the  First Alaskans Institute’s Elders and Youth Conference.

Emily Tyrell is the sustainability director for the First Alaskans Institute.

“We have storytelling, we have drum making, we have weaving, and in some cases you’ll have elders teaching youth and in other cases youth teaching elders. It’s this transference of knowledge whether it’s elders to youth or youth to elders,” said Tyrell.

Two years ago, the CIRI Foundation helped the Institute acquire more funding for the workshops. Conference participants had asked in previous years for more opportunities to connect and learn through art, and so that’s what the extra funding went to.

Tyrell said it’s important for the youth to embrace their culture’s strengths.

“Oftentimes we hear this message that our people are overloaded with these terrible statistics: high suicide rates, domestic violence,” said Tyrell. “Yes, those statistics are true, but there is also a message that we bring forward through our work that we are a beautiful vibrant people and we’ve been on these lands for the last 10,000 years.”

Susan Anderson, president and CEO of the CIRI Foundation, said the idea is that traditional arts give elders and youth the chance to talk about current issues and concerns in the context of an activity their ancestors also took part in.

“It’s about helping people know who they are culturally and through heritage as well as helping them to then succeed in their educational path,” said Anderson.

One of the first agreements attendees at the annual Elders and Youth Conference make is to participate.

“In every chair, a leader,” is a mantra repeated throughout by institute staff. Attending Indigenius workshops is a step toward fulfilling the mantra.

The agreement means a number of things: It calls on participants to actively engage with others and to listen carefully, to speak respectfully and to be open to learning. It guides participants through a series of discussions and activities aimed at fostering communication between the generations and instilling confidence in the younger ones. 

There are dozens of workshops to choose from and participation is not limited to Alaska Natives or just elders and youth. Tyrell, the sustainability director at FAI, says the general public is encouraged and welcome to join the conference, which continues through Wednesday morning.

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