About 15 people met in the West End home of Kaye Corcoran on Friday night for their monthly meeting in support of Barry Beach, the man convicted of the 1979 murder of 17-year-old Kimberly Nees.
Members of the informal advocacy group say that Barry Beach was coerced into confessing to the murder, which landed him in prison with a 100-year sentence. He was freed in 2011 after a judge granted him a new trial, but then sent back to prison in May after the Montana Supreme Court reversed the decision.
The group is called BB Free. “After his (Beach’s) license plate of course,” said member Penni Kolpin.
The group meets to discuss strategies and exchange ideas on how to aid Beach in his quest for freedom, member Sue Searcy said.
“If you’re not doing it for yourself, do it for (your) kids, your grandkids and your great-grandkids,” she said of fighting to see Beach freed. “Because it’s only going to get worse if we don’t stop this kind of injustice that’s going on now.”
The group has organized rallies around the state and members also maintain several Facebook pages.
During the meeting, the group rehashed various points of Beach’s case. His confession, which everyone in the group agreed was coerced, was a hot topic.
Nicholas Sams, one of four men attending the meeting, recommended that everyone in the group watch a Youtube video about the coercive tactics used by members of the criminal justice system.
“It’s an amazing, fascinating thing,” Sams said of the video. “It’s called “Never talk to police.” It’s on Youtube.
“One of the quotes on there is that you’ve got to understand that when you’re talking, at any point, to a law officer, it’s like going into the ring as a puny-weight compared to when Mike Tyson was heavyweight champ.”
For at least a couple of people in the group, a 2008 Dateline special on Beach’s case was what sparked their interest in fighting to free the convicted murderer.
Searcy said she remembers her initial reaction to seeing Beach in the television special was, “what a handsome guy.”
The members talked for more than an hour, discussing publicity strategies that included having a volunteer hold a sign in support of Beach at a busy intersection in Billings, holding a prayer vigil, holding a seminar on coerced confessions and trying to get a documentary about Beach made.
“Sometimes we have little tidbits that we can’t share publicly, but that we can share within our group that we won’t be sharing this evening,” Searcy said with a chuckle.
“Thanks for opening that door, Sue,” said Bobbi Clicher, Beach’s mother and the secretary for the group, when a better explanation was asked for.
“There’s things that Barry can’t share with everybody," Searcy said. "And that we can’t share publicly because legally … it’s kind of like playing poker, you don’t want to turn your hand around and show it to everyone.”
People at the meeting credited Cindy Buckman, president of BB Free and a friend of Beach’s, with founding the organization.
The night before Beach went back to prison, she said he told her to carry on the message that he is innocent. Buckman set up a Facebook page, “And then from there it kind of snowballed,” she said.
Some members of the group stay in close contact with Beach. Vice president Andre Pedro said Beach had called her the night before.
“He’s got ideas and different things that he likes to have mentioned,” Pedro said. “He wishes he could be here and take part in this, obviously.”
“We all march to Barry’s drumbeat,” Clincher said.