Tag Archives: faith

Down…But Far From Out…

Greetings and Happy New Year! One of my goals in 2017 is to remain optimistic that this will be an exceptional and unprecedented year for ongoing efforts regarding our five innocent Wisconsin men; Keith Kutska, Dale Basten, Michael Hirn, Reynold Moore, and Michael Johnson.

There is much to be hopeful about despite a recent setback in our mission to request a new trial for one of those five, Keith Kutska. On December 28, 2016, we received word that Keith was denied justice as the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction, barring him once again, the right to present new evidence in a new trial.

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During trial in 1995. Photo Courtesy of the Green Bay Press Gazette

Green Bay’s WLUK Fox 11 coverage included the following excerpt from that court’s decision:

“Kutska requests a new trial in the interest of justice. Because he failed to establish ineffective assistance of counsel or newly discovered evidence, that motion is procedurally barred. In addition, he has not established that the real controversy was not fully tried or that, because of trial error, it is probable that justice miscarried and a new trial would produce a different result.”

Here is the link to the entire Court of Appeals decision.

I’ll remind my readers that none of these men were granted separate trials to begin with, which in my opinion is a denial of a basic constitutional right. But let’s examine what I understand to be “the real controversy” in this earnest attempt to achieve justice; the idea that Tom Monfils’ death could have been a suicide. Those of us who support the innocence of all six men believe there’s plenty of evidence to show that suicide is a plausible explanation of what happened to him. We may never fully understand the scope of the circumstances leading up to his death but the science, the witness testimony, and the human interaction that occurred at the mill on that day in 1992, support this theory.

I believe the dominant reason for the resistance by the courts to allow progress in this case is pride. Simply put, they don’t want to admit that they’ve prosecuted, convicted, and incarcerated the men wrongfully. But the heart of the controversy among the general public seems to rest on misguided opinions and an inability to accept the suicide theory because of the taboo in our culture on the subject. Many are simply uncomfortable and even offended by the idea that someone would take their own life. In regard to the Monfils case, I often hear comments by those in support of the murder theory that no one in their right mind would commit suicide in the manner that Monfils died. But that idea falls flat because no one contemplating suicide is ever in a right frame of mind. At the given time, the victim will use whatever means is available or familiar to them, as it was here.

Based on these statements included in the court’s decision, the resistance to even have a conversation about suicide when it is staring them in the face is troubling. And knowing that the subject was never brought up during the 28-day trial is baffling.

According to the court, “(Tom) Monfils’ family’s opinions (as stated by the brother, Cal Monfils, during his testimony at the evidentiary hearing in 2015) regarding his possible suicide consisted of hearsay and speculation.” And, “In light of Young’s (the medical examiner) conclusions, trial counsel’s decision to forego presenting a suicide defense constituted a reasonable trial strategy, particularly given the questionable admissibility of the non-expert evidence (given at the evidentiary hearing) supporting the suicide theory.”

Having spoken with people who’ve dealt with suicide within their own families, the shame and profound guilt of those left behind is evident. They wonder why they were not aware and if there was something they could have or should have done to prevent this tragedy. The subject is painful, disturbing, and often avoided no matter the probability of its likelihood. But these influences should not blind any of us untouched by its effects to the possibility of suicide.

Statistical analysis favors our argument: According to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, “Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States” and is highest in middle-aged white men. “Each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide.” In Wisconsin, it’s the 4th leading cause of death for ages 35-54. (Monfils was 35 when his life ended.) “Over four times as many people die by suicide in Wisconsin annually than by homicide.”

At this moment, we’re disappointed about the latest ruling but we are far from over and out and we will continue to exert a relentless stance in our quest to succeed. We have no illusions about the uphill battle we still face but if we can help it, we will never allow this injustice to persevere. We will take the plunge back into indeterminate waters as our mission expands to new levels of awareness and farther up the judicial ladder in 2017.

A petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court is our next step. If this request fails, the legal team will pursue relief in the federal courts where the sixth man, exoneree Michael Piaskowski, obtained justice in 2001.

Until then, here’s a recap of upcoming events that I hope will greatly support these efforts. Two documentaries that will heighten awareness of this case are on the horizon and will be completed in 2017.

Beyond Human Nature is an examination of the human element and the interaction of the individuals involved on either side in the Monfils case.  Father and son team, Michael and Dave Neelsen of StoryFirst Media, based in Madison, Wisconsin are producing this project. Completion and distribution dates and venues are still unknown.

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Banner courtesy of ‘StoryFirst Media’

The Innocent Convicts examines how wrongful convictions occur. Seven cases, including the Monfils case, are reviewed in this project. Mark Saxenmeyer of The Reproters Inc, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota is the producer. Because of our involvement in the Monfils case, I and my friend and colleague, John Johnson, were interviewed for this project which will air on numerous PBS stations across the country in 2017. Specific completion and distribution dates are still unknown.

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Banner courtesy of ‘The Reporters Inc’

My tool of awareness is the book I’ve sought to complete in the past four years. This factual depiction of events from my perspective expands on the 2009 publication of The Monfils Conspiracy. Mine is a testament to the courage and perseverance of many I’ve met along the way who’ve experienced the ill-effects of a wrongful conviction. Because of my specific interest and involvement in the Monfils case, I impress upon my audience the urgency of taking action on behalf of the unfortunate victims aside from the men themselves; their families and close friends, people who led lives similar to ours before this tragedy befell them. I urge all to give credence to their long-standing predicament as well as to the devastation exacted on innocents everywhere.

In November of 2016, I submitted my transcript of this troubling story to a self-publishing company in Minneapolis called, Mill City Press. After finalizing an evaluation of the transcript, I received an astonishing overview. My story was regarded by them as having been “written well” and executed “professionally and tactfully” from a “facts only” perspective. Although an actual publishing date is uncertain, I am hopeful that the book will be available sometime during the first half of 2017.

I will post updates and specifics on all of these projects as they materialize.

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Early Spring sunrise on Laddie Lake, Blaine, MN (USA)

There are many uncertain variables at this stage but what an adventuresome and progress filled year this will be!

An Obvious Obscurity…

“How can we not talk about family when family is all that we got?”

This phrase is from a popular pop song featuring Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth called ‘See You Again’. In my opinion it echoes the often hidden and most obvious element of wrongful convictions; the heartbreak that is a mainstay of the lives left in the wake. Hearing it prompted my recollection of a specific video clip from 1995 that was televised in Green Bay, WI following a sentencing hearing that landed six innocent men in prison for life. Although the clip clearly represents the pain and suffering typical in these cases, that taboo subject almost never gets addressed. The screams coming from those depicted in that news clip hauntingly beckon for justice.

This public display of emotion embodies the horrors the victims face and an inability to heal over time. This was apparent at a new 3-day evidentiary hearing in Green Bay on July 8th, 9th and 22nd, 2015. My sister Clare and I heard firsthand accounts of egregious tactics and bullying bestowed upon ordinary blue collar mill workers and their families during the original investigation. Witnessing the fear and anguish still present today (as depicted in this more recent You Tube trailer), caused us both to utter out loud, our disgust and concern for these victims.

On Saturday, July 11th following the first two days of intense testimony, my husband Mike and I traveled to Oshkosh Correctional for a long awaited visit with Reynold Moore, one of the six men. Visiting privileges allowed us to stay for three full hours but because of the timing of an inmate recount, it was extended an additional half hour.

When Rey entered the lounge, he spotted us and waved excitedly touting a big smile. He walked over and embraced us both as though we were old friends. His hearty laugh exhibited warmth and sincerity and we instantly felt the tension of the past few days fall away. Mike and I felt this mutual diversion was good for all three of us due to our knowledge of the personal concerns Rey faces and has shared in his letters. But at that moment on this day none of it was going to suppress Rey’s enthusiasm…or ours.

During our conversation we discussed the disturbance in the courtroom on that fateful day in 1995. Rey told us that the screams had come from his daughter and others in his family. It prompted me to ask Rey when he truly understood that he would be sent to prison. Rey stated it wasn’t until the moment he heard the judge’s rulings after the guilty verdicts were read aloud. All along, Rey and his family falsely believed in the integrity of the system and that the truth would prevail and absolve him of wrongdoing.

Rey had mentioned prior to our visit that the lounge restaurant would be open and he expressed his desire to buy us breakfast. We decided on the morning special; a chorizo breakfast burrito, fried potatoes and a yogurt and fruit cup. When we expressed our apprehension about him having to pay for our meals out of his own funds he gave us a concerted look and asked that we grant him this pleasure. The food was quite tasty and especially enjoyable while sharing this time with our special friend. Often shared during the meal were tears of sadness or hearty laughter. As in the other prison visits, time passed quickly.

We relayed greetings and best wishes from numerous people. Rey, in turn, expressed gratitude toward Mike for generosly and actively supporting me and participating in this mission-a common feeling among all of the men. Mike has become their hero along with the rest of us. During much of our time together we focused on the hearing and the heroism from the witness stand. We discussed the portrayal of these events by the local media.

It is refreshing to hear how insightful these men are about what happened to them. They have no illusions about how this case played out. They have a good grasp on their feelings towards those who took everything from them. It is no surprise and a lesson for us all that they choose to rise above harboring anger and revenge, unlike their critics. Rey talked about his religious faith and how it positively guides him. In each of these men we also see an absence of criminalistic behavior. Their true character seems to be lost on their captors.

Rey wanted to have pictures taken. He ordered five copies so he could keep two for himself. He said he has a special place on his cell wall for pictures of loved ones and supporters that help him maintain his sanity. This time, the prison had strict guidelines about touching an inmate during any photo so we got as close as we possibly could without violating protocol.**

Rey was okay with that. “You know, that’s just the way it is,” he said.  And well…isn’t that the genuine nature of Reynold Moore…a person who focuses on the positive and who is all about family. And how can we not talk about that?

rey_moore_3_300ppiReynold Moore with Mike and Joan Treppa

**No one seemed to be the wiser as both Mike and I slipped our arms around Rey’s back as we all smiled for the camera.