A Great Falls judge exonerated a man who has spent 15 years behind bars for a murder he said he didn’t commit.
The murder charge against Richard Burkhart, represented by the Montana Innocence Project, was dismissed last week. Burkhart was accused of killing Wiliam D. Ledeau, who was reportedly bludgeoned with a hammer on Nov. 13, 2001, on 12th Street North, between Central and First Avenue North.
The order dismissing the case allows prosecutors to refile the charge against Burkhart in the future if new evidence supports it.
A 12-person jury had found Burkhart, now 38, guilty at trial in 2002. In light of new evidence uncovered in 2015, Judge John Kutzman overturned Burkhart’s original conviction and ordered he receive a second trial.
Attorneys with the Montana Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to exonerating the wrongfully convicted, filed a motion in December to dismiss the case for violation of Burkhart’s right to a speedy trial. On Dec. 28, district prosecutors filed their own motion to dismiss the case, citing a lack of evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Read more.