Barry Beach’s conviction for the 1979 murder of Kimberly Nees remains in place. The governor’s order does not exonerate Beach of the crime, but recognizes that Beach was a juvenile at the time Nees was murdered, and that under current laws he would not have been sentenced to what amounts to a life sentence.
Bullock also acknowledges Beach’s good behavior while he was incarcerated at Montana State Prison for more than 30 years. He also notes well as the 18 months he spent as a free man before the Montana Supreme Court sent him back to prison.
“…during his three decades of incarceration Mr. Beach has maintained a good institutional record…in his 18 months of living and working in Billings, Mr. Beach demonstrated that he is capable of living a productive life and respecting society’s rules.”
Bullock also said three psychological reports on Beach found he “poses minimal risk to public safety and is likely to successfully transition back into society.”
The order directs Beach’s sentence to time served, with an additional 10 years that shall be suspended. For those 10 years of suspended sentence Beach will remain under the supervision of the Department of Corrections.
“Mr. Beach has demonstrated an extended period of good conduct both in and out of prison, and the reasons for maintaining his 100-years-without-parole sentence at taxpayer expense diminish with each passing year,” Bullock stated in his order.
Bullock was granted the authority to make such a declaration by the 2015 Legislature, which passed a bill changing the laws governing executive clemency and commutation of sentences.
Bullock, who as Attorney General resisted Beach’s efforts to get a new trial based on new evidence, asked the Montana Board of Pardon and Parole to send Beach’s last clemency request to his desk. The Board unanimously denied that request, which became a driving force of the legislation that shook up the board and gave more power to the governor to commute sentences and grant clemency.
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