Age at the date of crime: 22
County of Conviction: Cascade County
Convicted of: Murder
Sentence: Life in Prison
Years Served: 15
Cost of Wrongful Incarceration: $540,000 (in 2015 dollars)
Richard Burkhart spent 15 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
On September 19, 2002 Mr. Burkhart was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of William Ledeau in Great Falls. In 2014 the Montana Innocence Project got involved in the case.
During its re-investigation, the Montana Innocence Project discovered that the prosecution’s main witness had lied. Facing serious prison time and threats that prosecutors would also lock up his fiance, who was pregnant with his child, the witness broke down and said what law enforcement wanted him to say. Twelve years after Mr. Burkhart’s conviction and incarceration, the Montana Innocence Project tracked down this witness, who recanted his testimony and admitted he lied at trial.
The Montana Innocence Project also obtained files from the state that had not been turned over to Mr. Burkhart. The files included a report from a Great Falls police detective who had interviewed a man who said another individual had admitted to the murder.
Based on this new evidence, Cascade County District Court Judge John Kutzman overturned Mr. Burkhart’s conviction and ordered a new trial. On December 29, 2017 the prosecution dismissed the charge against Mr. Burkhart.