Fairbanks Four back in court, suing city of Fairbanks

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - It's been 10 months since the Fairbanks Four filed a lawsuit against the City of Fairbanks for wrongful imprisonment. Wednesday, in federal court, attorneys made opening statements about whether or not the suit can go forward.

Three years ago, the Fairbanks Four were granted their freedom, after serving almost two decades in jail for the 1997 murder of John Hartman. A conviction that has since been overturned when William Holmes confessed to the murder in 2015. Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent, George Frese, and Kevin Pease are pursuing a civil suit against the City of Fairbanks, alleging wrongful imprisonment due to false evidence.

Even though the men each signed agreements in 2015 to not sue the city after release. However, their lawyers claim the men were coerced into signing the agreements. Wednesday, lawyers for both the city and the Fairbanks Four presented opening arguments about whether the case should be allowed or not.

"The issue was, today, whether existing law from the Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, would allow this type of case to go forward under these circumstances," said Mike Kramer, attorney for Roberts and Vent.

But the city is asking Federal Judge H. Russel Holland to not allow the case to move forward.

"The United States Supreme Court doesn't allow that kind of claim, unless a Criminal Court first set aside the case finding that there was something done wrong. That never happened here," said Matt Singer, attorney for City of Fairbanks.

Marvin Roberts says he is hopeful things will work in their favor.

"We don't know what is going to happen. We just hope for a positive outcome, and we would just like to thank all of our supporters that got us this far," Roberts said.

Judge Holland will take the day to review the arguments presented and should deliver his ruling in the coming weeks.