On October 28, 2013 I participated in an annual “Walk for Truth and Justice” held in Downtown Green Bay as I’ve done for four years now. I relished in the time spent with close friends and families of the six men; Keith Kutska, Dale Basten, Michael Hirn, Michael Johnson, Reynold Moore and exoneree, Michael Piaskowski, convicted in the death of Tom Monfils in 1995. Some of my family members came along as well and I was grateful for their participation.
We met at 5:30 in the St. Willebrord’s Catholic Church parking lot and moseyed across the street where a sound system had been set up on the Courthouse steps. Three of us would be addressing a modest crowd that evening before embarking on our short trek; to the front of the Courthouse, towards the Church entrance to stop and recite a prayer and then on past the Green Bay Police Department.
Excitement was overflowing this year. We were about to disclose a big development regarding the case. Up until then, aside from the city’s law enforcement community, only those in our inner circle of family members and close supporters of these men were aware that a large and prestigious law firm in Minneapolis had started re-investigating this historic case. No one else knew that the law firm of Fredrikson&Byron, PA had also received collective support from both the Wisconsin Innocence Project and Innocence Project of Minnesota AND that each of the five men still imprisoned now had his own attorney. In addition, it was going to be announced that this legal assistance was all being provided Pro Bono.
Word spread that I was responsible for much of these actions because of my influence in Minneapolis. The local media had gotten wind of the news and were there in full force. I was asked to be interviewed for the first time by three TV stations. Denis Gullickson, Master of Ceremonies and author of The Monfils Conspiracy, the book that directed my attention to this cause, also asked me to give a short speech. I was stunned and humbled when he introduced me as “St. Joan of Blaine”.
I’ve little recollection of what Denis said after that. All I know is that my cue to go up onstage came when I heard clapping. As I stepped behind the microphone, I stared out at the smiling faces. And as I blurted out something I hope was legible, in my mind I realized the magnitude of what had developed out of a five year mission to free five wrongfully imprisoned men. All of the attendees, including Denis had placed so much value in my abilities and this venue was where they all thanked me. But my actions were my way of honoring all of them, to give them hope…and peace of mind. None of us would ever forget this experience. We all knew these developments were going to change their lives for the better. I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered what I said in those few minutes. Their happiness was evident. When I finished, someone had said it all by shouting, “We love you!” It took tremendous effort to maintain my composure.
The walk concluded but the effects of that evening still linger…long after the signs and candles have all been put away for another year.
This is the kind of thing that dreams are made of, a dream that I, a once unknown woman from Blaine, Minnesota, was proud to have forged. This dream was coming true…for them. And no matter what happened from then on out, no one could ever take away. And that was just fine with me.