Full Circle…

Early on in my advocacy concerning the injustice of six Wisconsin men, I learned about Reynold Moore from my sister, Clare. She knew Rey and his wife long before the incident at the mill in 1992. They had been good friends. That bond resulted in her firm belief of his innocence and of the innocence of the other five men. Clare was also the catalyst for my involvement.

There’s a memory Clare uses to describe Rey’s character. She often talks about the days before Rey was convicted and how he and his wife  would invite Clare over to their house for visits. Since her only source of transportation back then was riding her bycicle, she would head over to their house on the bike, knowing Rey would offer to throw it into the back of his pickup and drive her home if it got too dark. She will never forget how concerned he was for her safety.

That view of Rey shines brightly in all of his letters to me. There’s no accurate way to define him other than as someone who beams with inherent kindness. Rey always ends his letters with a prayerful blessing for me and my family. He appreciates the hope instilled in him because of our support.

Rey will be the first to say that his record is not spotless and that he was not always a nice person. Maybe so, but this is not the picture my sister paints of him. She has shared the struggles he’s had and how they’ve affected his family. I can only imagine the burden he faces daily. Still, he exhibits patience and forgiveness and I know of the many close friends and supporters who vigorously advocate on his behalf who participate in activities to promote his release.

The crucial evidence used to convict Rey was the testimony of a paid jailhouse informant, James Gilliam. On the day of the arrests in the Monfils case, James Gilliam, a career criminal, was also arrested for threatening a woman with a butcher knife.* He immediately saw an opportunity. He told the authorities that while he was jail, he shared a cell with Rey. He claimed Rey had confided in him about the murder. And on the witness stand during the Monfils trial, Gilliam testified that Rey disclosed details to him about how he (Rey) had participated in the beating of Tom Monfils. Even though Gilliam’s statements contradicted the known facts, he was rewarded with two years’ probation and was set free for his contribution to the prosecution’s case.

Years later, Gilliam recanted his original statement while being interviewed by the Wisconsin Innocence Project. In light of this recantation, the project had taken up Rey’s case. They petitioned the court to grant Rey a hearing based on this latest development. Their aim was to ask that Rey be given a new trial which might produce a different outcome than the original trial. But when Gilliam took the stand during the hearing, he recanted his recantation. He reversed his story to reflect what he had said at the original trial. And Rey was not granted a new trial.

Despite these disappointments, Reynold Moore has held strong to himself and to his faith. He tells me he looks forward to the day when we meet “face to face” so that he can thank me in person for all I’ve done for him. I look forward to that day as well. But I, in turn, wish to thank him for being the caring friend he was and is, to my sister.

*Gilliam is currently serving a life sentence for murdering his wife. He is ineligible for parole.

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