After spending 15 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, on December 29, 2017, Richard Burkhart was fully exonerated for a 2002 conviction for Deliberate Homicide. Judge John Kutzman signed the Order dismissing the judgment in this case.
This is MTIP’s third exoneration in the last 15 months (Richard Raugust in October 2016; Cody Marble in January 2017; and Richard Burkhart in December 2017). In 2014, MTIP filed a Petition for Post-conviction Relief on Burkhart’s behalf. Among other things, MTIP discovered that the sole “eyewitness” to the crime recanted his trial testimony. MTIP also discovered that evidence of another suspect’s confession had not been shared with defense counsel, a violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark case Brady v. Maryland. MTIP moved to overturn the conviction based upon the Brady violation, and the motion was granted in November 2016.
The State of Montana announced it would re-try Burkhart for the homicide, but finally dismissed the charge last week, citing the strength of the Defendant’s case. “We are very pleased with the Court’s Order dismissing the charge against Richard Burkhart,” said Larry Mansch, Legal Director for the Montana Innocence Project. “Many people – most notably our attorneys Toby Cook, Lars Phillips, Tom Bourguignon, our investigators Spencer Veysey and Michael Wark, and our student volunteers – worked countless hours to free Richard.”
MTIP President Dan Weinberg echoed Mansch’s feelings. “Our organization is dedicated to freeing wrongfully convicted individuals like Richard,” Weinberg said. “We are happy that justice was finally done in this case, and we are determined to continue to do our best to help others who are deserving of their freedom.”
“I have been waiting for this moment for many, many years,” said Burkhart. “I am grateful for the amazing and dedicated work of the Montana Innocence Project. All of their lawyers and volunteers worked so hard on my case. I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life as a free man.”