As I walked past a grocery store I observed a woman exiting, carrying an impossible load of groceries. At her finger tips she also straddled a six pack of beverages. It was obvious to me that she was struggling but I kept on walking. The sound of glass crashing to the ground still did not compel me to lend a hand. Instead I chose to feel shame and embarrassment and I selfishly feared that if I helped her then she might lash out in anger because I did not come to her aid sooner. When I share this story some ask why she didn’t use a cart. I say, “Why didn’t I help?” When others suggest I should let it go and move on, I say, “Not in a million years!”
Decades later I was given a second chance to step in when help was needed. This time, it was for a cause I knew nothing about but one that, because of my initial actions, would shift gears in a new direction. I went from being the happy suburban wife and mother, to motivated Citizen Advocate; supporter of six innocent men.
My introduction to wrongful convictions came about when I read a book in 2009 called, The Monfils Conspiracy. It talked about six paper mill workers wrongfully convicted of murder in Green Bay, Wisconsin (USA) in 1995. My connection with these men formed because of a definite sense that they were bullied, much like I had been as a young girl.
Although their experience was far worse than mine, their rights, like mine, had been violated. They were unfairly targeted for a crime they did not commit, despite evidence that pointed to their innocence. They had alibis, no prior history of violence, long-term family relationships, homes and job security…until they became victims of an ambitious prosecutor, a police force pressured into solving the case and a community consumed by vengeance and fear.
Bringing attention to this case was necessary. One of the six had already been freed (exonerated) by a federal judge who claimed he found no credible evidence to convict. But even though the six were tried together in a joint trial, the other five remain behind bars. I became their voice of awareness, honesty and justice…a voice I once longed for…a voice that compelled a sympathetic attorney to bring this case back to the attention of the courts.
In October of 2014, that attorney filed a motion to request an evidentiary hearing for one of the men, Keith Kutska. That motion was granted by the original trial judge and a hearing was held in July of 2015. Its purpose was to seek a new trial for Kutska. But the request for the new trial was denied by the same judge who cited the new evidence presented as nonsensical. Since then, another motion for a new trial was filed at the next level; the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. That motion is currently pending…
There are many issues beyond my reach but if I can make even the tiniest difference in this one maybe my actions will affect the larger picture. That is all I can do and that is all many people like me strive to do. I am one person who started the ball rolling but beyond that, I leave the heaving lifting for those with the appropriate skills to take it from there. And there’s no shame in