Burkhart exonerated in murder case - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Burkhart exonerated in murder case

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MISSOULA- The Montana Innocence Project announced its third exoneration in the last 15 months. A new court order dismisses the homicide charge against Richard Burkhart.

In 2001, Burkhart was arrested after the death of William Ledeau, whose body was found on a street in Great Falls in 2001, bludgeoned with a ball-peen hammer. Burkhart and a friend had approached police the same night to report that Burkhart’s car had been broken into. At trial, prosecutors claimed Burkhart killed Ledeau for breaking into his car. A jury found Burkhart guilty in 2002, and he’s been in prison ever since.

In 2014, the Montana Innocence Project filed for relief on Burkhart’s behalf after discovering that the sole eyewitness in the case recanted his trial testimony. MTIP also says another suspect had confessed that he'd killed Ledeau, but his confession was not disclosed to Burkhart’s defense.

"I know if I had all this evidence the first time I was at trial then without a question I would have never been found guilty," Burkhart wrote when petitioning for his sentence to be overturned.

In November 2016, a judge vacated Burkhart’s conviction and ordered a new trial. By late 2017, another judge decided that the evidence didn’t support having a new trial for Burkhart.

“I have been waiting for this moment for many, many years,” Burkhart said in a press release from MTIP. “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.”   

Judge John Kutzman signed the order dismissing charges against Burkhart on Dec. 29.

Burkhart joins Richard Raugust (Oct. 2016) and Cody Marble (Jan. 2017) in recent successful MTIP exonerations.

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