I’m posting my “Walk for Truth and Justice” speech in its entirety:
In my son Jared Manninen’s book MEGA ’99; Adventures of An Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker, he cites a fortune cookie quote that I absolutely love. It states, “If you are heading in the right direction, it is not necessary to know where you are going”. I can certainly relate as this sentiment depicts how events in my life have unfolded as a citizen advocate for social justice.
As we embark on our fifth annual Walk for Truth and Justice to once again honor six men wrongly sentenced to murder in 1995, I want to look back for a moment and reflect on how and why I got into this fight and why I am committed to seeing it through to the end.
In the latter part of 2009, I had no idea where my getting involved would lead or how I could effectively help. All I knew is that I had to do something. My professional background was nowhere near what was needed as far as legal help but after meeting authors John Gaie and Denis Gullickson along with the exoneree in the case, Michael Piaskowski, I felt I was adequately equipped on an emotional level. I was also able to promote their book, The Monfils Conspiracy, especially after learning how they had selflessly poured their efforts into pursuing this project for eight long years. I believed in their mission, to tell the only side of this tragic story that they knew, which was the absolute truth of what really happened in this wrongful conviction case. I definitely wanted to participate in making a difference and maybe even bringing their important message to a broader level of awareness.
I didn’t realize how effective selling books could be but I’m glad I took that first step. A year into it I happened across Johnny Johnson, a retired crime scene investigator with a 30-year history in law enforcement. He bought the book from me. He read it three times! His trained eye and open mind caused conflict within. All he had ever stood for in the name of jurisprudence was forever tainted. Early on as we put our energies into searching for legal help, we both felt we wanted to meet the families directly affected by this injustice. Afterward, having observed the anguish and hopelessness in many of your faces, it was clear to us how important and urgent our mission was.
It would be another two years before Johnny and I would finally meet Steve Kaplan, the respected attorney who appeared to have a heart bigger than the size of Texas. Because of his compassionate persistence and that of his legal team both in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we are currently on the brink of a turning point that I believe will have a huge impact on this case. Anything can happen but I take comfort in knowing that everything is possible.
People from Minnesota and Wisconsin continue to invest time and resources toward this cause because of an understanding of the terrible plight you have endured for far too long. So on their behalf I stand here today with open arms and humble heart to tell you it is our wish to send a message of hope and prosperity we are certain awaits you.
This evening as we step out once again to commemorate every victim tied to this injustice let us be mindful of where we have been and of what we have accomplished together. And just as we could never have imaged how far this has come neither can we predict how it will end. But for tonight let us relish in the fact that however things play out, we will continue on with this fight in the name of truth and justice because no matter what path it leads us on we are confident it is heading in the right direction…