Mont. man released while awaiting new murder trial

By the Associated Press | December 7, 2011 | 6:05 PM EST

LEWISTOWN, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man who's spent nearly 30 years in prison has been released on his own recognizance while he awaits a new murder trial, in a case that has been closely watched across the state.

District Judge E. Wayne Phillips made the ruling involving Barry Beach Wednesday after a hearing in Lewistown.

Phillips on Nov. 23 ordered a new trial for Beach, who was convicted in the 1979 death of Kim Nees on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

Beach has been in prison for 29 years.

In ordering a new trial, Phillips said there was enough evidence to raise doubts about Beach's guilt after a court hearing last summer in which witnesses linked Nees' death to an out-of-control fight among teenage girls.

The state filed a notice Tuesday that it plans to appeal the order for a new trial and requested that Beach be kept in prison pending the appeal.