Now that the Fairbanks Four are finally free, Alaska’s focus must shift to securing a more enduring justice.
Alaska needs to assure that debacles like that of the Fairbanks Four can never happen again. This requires that members of Alaska’s criminal justice system will automatically consider the consequences they could encounter, if they choose to disregard their ethical and legal obligations.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry authorized more death penalty executions than any governor in recent history. But he also enacted policies that offer model reforms for Alaska’s criminal justice system.
Gov. Perry recognized that to be tough on crime while minimizing false convictions, rigorous legal and ethical standards are needed throughout the criminal justice system. Thus Gov. Perry signed the Tim Cole Act in 2009 and the Eyewitness ID Reform Act in 2011. In 2013, Gov. Perry continued with approvals of the Prosecutor Accountability Act and the Michael Morton Act.
While Gov. Perry’s tough-on-crime posture seemingly conflicts with his hard-hitting standards for criminal justice officials, readers can do online searches and review the following articles, which describe his reasoning:
a) Time Magazine’s 2009 article “Texas: The Kinder, Gentler Hang ‘Em High State.”
b) The Dallas Morning News’ 2011 article “Eyewitness ID legislation aims to prevent conviction of the innocent in Texas.”
Since key individuals in Alaska’s criminal justice system seemingly remain indifferent to the lapses that led to the Fairbanks Four, the officials who oversee them should step in:
1) The Alaska Legislature should review and adopt Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s reforms and put some teeth behind Alaska’s ethics rules for police and prosecutors.