Closed court hearing underway for 4 men convicted in 1997 death of Alaska teenager

A closed hearing is underway in the case of four men convicted in the 1997 death of a Fairbanks teenager.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports ( ) that more than 100 people gathered Thursday outside a Fairbanks courtroom where an unscheduled hearing is taking place. The men and prosecutors in the so-called Fairbanks Four case have been working on a proposed deal to free them.

The three Alaska Native men and an American Indian have always maintained their innocence in the death of 15-year-old John Hartman. The proposed deal comes as a judge considers a verdict in a separate civil action from the men seeking to have their convictions overturned. Alaska's governor also is considering a pardon.

State prosecutors have vigorously defended the convictions, but they made the surprise offer to free the three remaining jailed men last week. In exchange, all four would not be allowed to sue government entities.