get it home page promo

The story of Barry Beach’s innocence

2008-03-23T00:00:00Z 2011-12-07T00:01:26Z The story of Barry Beach’s innocenceDANIEL J. GENGLER - Your Turn - 03/23/08 Helena Independent Record

I am fortunate to live in a nation that aspires to the rule of law and justice for all.

And we are fortunate that the system works as well as it does. It's not perfect but 99 percent of the time the system works reasonably well. The story of Barry Beach's innocence is about the other 1 percent of the time.

I first found about this case in 2006 when a good friend asked me to take a look at a set of files. He told me it was about an innocent Montana man in prison. Because I respect this friend, I agreed to read them, though I was skeptical. As I promised, I read the files, but I was looking for the flaws in the case for Beach's innocence. Somewhere near the end of reading these files, I reached a turning point. To the extent that what I was reading was authoritatively verified, I saw good reason to question the validity of this man's conviction. But my skepticism was still not completely satisfied. I still wanted to know what the other side had to say. What was I not being told?

So I attended the hearings before the Board of Pardons and Parole this past summer and read the state's documents to get the rest of the story. But after reading several voluminous documents and sitting through three grueling days of testimony, I heard nothing from the state that made any sense which undermined the case for Barry Beach's innocence. I almost wished I hadn't taken the time and effort to expose myself to the truth because, at that point, I could no longer take refuge in a lack of awareness. Like the Samaritan man on the road who happens upon a stranger in need of help, I saw such a stranger in need. And though it would be far more convenient to walk on by assuring myself that the matter was not my concern, my faith compels me to stop and help.

I am not alone. Montanans for Justice is a group of Montanans from throughout the state who are concerned about this travesty in our justice system. We are deeply disturbed by the fact that we have an innocent man in prison serving an extremely harsh sentence of 100 years without parole for a crime he did not commit. We are current and former elected officials, professionals, businessmen and women -- folks from all walks of life who, through various circumstances, have come to know about this case. After thorough and careful review, all of us have come to firmly believe Barry Beach is not guilty of this murder, leading to the inescapable conclusion that those responsible for the murder of Kim Nees have not been held accountable. Not only has Barry Beach been denied justice for his wrongful conviction, the Nees family and the community of Poplar have been denied the true justice they deserve. Barry Beach is being represented legally by Centurion Ministries, an organization based in Princeton, N.J., dedicated to freeing the wrongly convicted. Centurion Ministries spent seven years and very substantial resources investigating this case before ever agreeing to represent Mr. Beach. Montanans For Justice is a grassroots effort composed of Montanans. We have no stake in this matter other than a desire for the truth to prevail.

Barry Beach's wrongful conviction is really only symptomatic of a much larger issue at hand. As one writer wrote on the blog: "I was born in 1979, and I've heard all the rumors on the rez because I was born and raised on Fort Peck. I've heard all my relatives talk about it, my great-grandmother told me Kim Nees' spirit still walks because she went too young. My relatives all lived on the hill and my mother was sitting outside that night, she heard alot of them partying down there, which makes me question Barry's confession in which he said he was alone with Kim down there, and if so, then how come my mother heard more than a couple people down there? Also, I've heard all the rumors about Sissy and Maude, but I don't think justice will come too soon for Barry because people on the rez are too scared to come forward. Look at the Follete murders, or Lawrence Crowe, and Richard Red Dog, I could go on, but of course, the right people are never convicted. I pray that they will be caught though, Poplar is a scary place to live for our children nowadays. How do you raise children in a town where murderers reside?"

How do you raise children in a place where there is little faith in law enforcement and our criminal justice system? Exonerating Barry Beach would be a shining beacon of hope in a community desperate for faith in the rule of law and justice.

There are, quite understandably, powerful forces that would prefer to quietly sweep this whole affair under the rug. But what's politically convenient is not necessarily what's right. The system works reasonably well 99 percent of the time. The system works even better when it faces up to the mistakes made the other 1 percent of the time and makes it right.

Daniel J. Gengler lives at 403 N. Ewing in Helena.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters. If you receive an error after submitting a comment, please contact us.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps:

    1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

    2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

    3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

    4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

    5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

    6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

    7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

    8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

    9. Don't write a novel. If your comment is longer than the article you're commenting on, you might want to cut it down a bit. Lengthy comments will likely be removed.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Follow the Independent Record

Great Helena Businesses

Featured Offers & Deals