Tag Archives: Green Bay Wisconsin

Residual Smoke and Mirrors…

In lieu of the current wildfires in Alberta, Canada, I sent a message of concern regarding the safety of my new friend and colleague, Lorraine Dmitrovic, who resides in Ontario. Lorraine responded by saying that her area was seeing something resembling residual smoke from the Province that is engulfed in the actual flames.

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Joan Van Houten

Lorraine co-hosts an Ontario based podcast called, The Ultimate Movies Broadcast Show. She invited Joan Van Houten and me onto her show recently as a follow-up to a previous interview she did with Mark Saxenmeyer, CEO of The Reporter’s Inc, about an upcoming wrongful conviction documentary he is producing called, The Innocent Convicts (which will include the Wisconsin Monfils case). With Joan being the step-daughter of Michael Johnson, one of the six men convicted in this case that is still incarcerated, and me, an advocate on Johnson’s behalf, Lorraine wanted us to inform her audience of our advocacy in the case.

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Joan Treppa

Each interview that Joan and I do reflects back, giving a mirrored image of the infinite devastation that befell countless innocent lives, in the wake of this flawed case. Our goal is to reach new audiences, to educate, inspire, and caution, about the prevalence of wrongful convictions within our society. With a record breaking 151 exonerations in 2015, an average of 3 per week, this issue is slowly becoming less obscure, as the number of exonerations surpasses those of previous years, and as news reports continue to unveil additional stories of innocence.

My husband and I awoke this morning to a definite haze, as described by Lorraine, that ironically traveled both from Canada and from a small town just north of us-Bemidji, Minnesota. I likened this phenomenon to the Monfils case, a travesty of injustice with its vagueness, incomplete and questionable gaps that failed to bring clarity to the resulting death of the deceased victim. Expectations were placed on a dazed jury, forcing them to reflect on evidence that amounted to nothing more than a smoke screen. Their decision to convict these six innocent men leaves us all in a cloud of residual smoke that lingers to this day…

Smokey sunrise over Laddie Lake 5-7-16

Smokey sunrise over Laddie lake

Here is the full 54-minute interview with Lorraine Dmitrovic.

 

Brown County’s Last Comedic Stance…

In an earlier post, I mentioned that a ruling had been reached in the July 2015 evidentiary hearing for Keith Kutska. I also noted that on January 13, 2015, our lead attorney, Steve Kaplan, was contacted by a reporter from the Green Bay Press Gazette, looking for a comment on the ruling. At that time, Kaplan was unaware of the ruling because he had not been informed. The reporter kindly sent him a copy of the official document. Then came the second blow; a denial of further action in the matter. There was not going to be a new trial for Keith Kutska.

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Logo design on T-shirts

My initial reaction was one of disbelief toward the blatant disrespect of Brown County. My second reaction bore mixed feelings as the reality of the situation set in. After thinking about it, this ruling was expected all along and the opposition was reacting with the same insolence they had displayed throughout the entire process. They were never going to acknowledge defeat. There was never going to be a new trial. Because that would suggest mistakes had been made and there was nothing to be gained by admitting to such incompetency.

However, this denial is not a bad thing for our men. Because of the way the hearing had been conducted, it was clear, even back then, it was never going to end favorably for Keith. In my opinion there seemed to be a tag team dynamic going on between the prosecutor and the judge during the entire ordeal. It was quite revealing to me and most unfortunate for Keith and his family. What was shameful was seeing the current prosecutor and the former Assistant DA involved in the original trial (a father and son team) both sitting at the same table during this hearing.

But in all reality, this ruling is encouraging.. It’ll take the case out of this biased town, away from this ridiculous progression of judicial recourse. It’s now headed for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. I believe that justice lies somewhere in the broader judicial spectrum. Proof of this lies in the first and only exoneration to date in this case which was granted to Michael Piaskowski in 2001 when his case landed in a federal court. A federal judge aptly cited the trial evidence as unsound and labeled it as “conjecture camouflaged as evidence.” It was a big stain on the prosecution’s pristine record.

Michael Piaskowski exonerated in 2001

Michael Piaskowski exonerated in 2001

Photo courtesy of the Green Bay Press Gazette

 

This document, in my opinion, epitomizes a wide gap between what’s right and what’s wrong with our entire legal process. I’ve been known to say that if these circumstances were not so tragic, they’d almost be laughable. After injesting the hypocrisy in this document, I rest my case.

Here is the complete 29-page document of the ruling from Brown County:

 

Steady As She Goes…

The promise of a new year incites good intentions, great new beginnings and a longing to leave undesirable baggage behind. A new year….a new us, right? Gym memberships soar, diets commence and monthly planners designed to organize our crazy lives fly off the shelves. These are great concepts that seldom pan out. Why? Because our hearts are not sufficiently vested. And the actual energy needed to maintain them becomes overwhelming because all that has really changed is the calendar year.

But the good news is that we are a resilient species. We never give up entirely. And we believe that our persistence will produce something fruitful.

With that said, I’d like to introduce you to someone very special to me; someone I feel could be a poster child of tenacity and determination; someone who came into my life and taught me how to withstand terrible odds. I met her while advocating for the same cause; the plight of six innocent men from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Coming from opposite sides in a common fight; mine as an outsider and hers being an insider, our friendship has become strong and steady. It has helped us to maintain hope that her situation will eventually improve.

Joan Van Houten started this New Year off the same as she has for the past 20+ years—positive and determined despite a significant and ongoing conflict she deals with daily. Joan remains steadfast in her mission to free a loved one from prison; someone she believes…she knows is innocent. And her 2016 resolutions precipitate being more active and successful at this one thing.

Each year Joan pushes herself that much harder to win this impossible fight. Each year she resolves to never abandon her stepfather, Michael Johnson; an innocent man sentenced to life in prison for a murder he did not commit.

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Michael Johnson (as he looked during sentencing) is third from the left

Joan recently wrote these brutally honest and powerful words about her plight. Having collaborated with her in this tragic circumstance, I have witnessed how hard it is for her to relive the painful moments that continue to persist and will do so until Michael’s sentence is vacated. So I felt her voice needed to be featured on my blog… 

Note: Michael Johnson is the only one of the five men my husband Mike and I have not visited in prison. We plan to do so in early 2016.

A New Year Brings Renewed Hope

By: Joan Van Houten

Another year has gone and we are left to make choices about how we plan to face the months ahead. Do we look back with disdain and sorrow and pain while looking ahead seeing only more of the same? Or do we choose to hold on to the progress made, all the love, effort and passionate actions of those who have so fully given of themselves to help our families?

Families of those wrongly convicted are not delusional. We would not still be fighting … over twenty years of fighting … because we’re too thick headed to believe someone we love is guilty. There are too many of us who know something went terribly wrong with the investigation into the death of Thomas Monfils. It’s not just one family. It’s not just two families. Six entire family units have been fighting to expose and to right what happened to all of us. And all six families remain committed after all these years. Can anyone still believe that each of us is out of our mind?

Year after year of watching our men in pain. Year after year as their children grew to graduate high school and college, have families of their own and children of their own. Year after year of Wisconsin Court officials turning their backs to the truth. So many of us, from different backgrounds, different histories and different experiences … still here and still fighting. It would be so much easier to just move on. To let go and accept that this is a fate that cannot be changed would be a less heartbreaking road to follow. And yet … we fight. Still.

It’s uncomfortable – talking to reporters from both television and print media. None of us work in that field. None of us are accustomed to standing out in the crowd. We’re everyday people with all the normal problems everyone has. To top that off, we’ve been fighting for the release of men who were convicted of murder. Murder! Though wrongly convicted in a case riddled with horrendous acts that go completely against the ideals set forth for our judicial system … convicted none the less. It can still cut deep when assumptions are made about what drives us to continue on – when our motives are shaved down to nothing more than pure lunacy and grief. To be judged in full public view is a hard thing to go through and the ugliness of some coming with all fangs bared and dripping with hate is something that makes me cringe. And yet … we fight. Still.

It’s been a long road and there is a long road ahead. Looking back, I see the monstrous valleys and paths riddled with boulders – I see the flooded gateways and pitted glaciers covering the earth. All these things that seemed insurmountable … unclimbable … unpassable. And yet, here we are … all those things behind us.

Our numbers have grown and continue to do so. With the book, The Monfils Conspiracy, The Conviction of Six Innocent Men by Denis Gullickson and John Gaie, and the merciful presence of Joan Treppa, a Citizen Advocate who adopted our plight as her own, our supporters reach out, to us and for us, more and more with each passing week. Outrage has finally begun to break through the disbelief and the voices of our men are finally reaching the hearts and ears of the masses.

In the months ahead, Truth will be our banner once again. It will be raised higher than ever imagined and ring louder than corrupt ears will be able to bear. With a new year comes renewed hope. And with Hope, all things are possible.

 

Joan Van Houten

Joan Van Houten is the step-daughter of Michael Johnson, one of six men wrongly convicted in the death of Thomas Monfils, detailed in the book; The Monfils Conspiracy, The Conviction of Six Innocent Men written by Denis Gullickson and John Gaie. Instrumental in bringing her step-father’s plight of innocence to the attention of renowned attorney, Lawrence Marshall, who took on the fight pro-bono, she continues the work of bringing awareness of the six wrongful convictions to light.

 

Links to more information on the book and this case:

Click here for all the latest news and video footage in The Monfils case.

The Voice of Innocence is a FaceBook page Joan VH and I jointly maintain.

 

Did You Hear What I Heard?

Said the Advocate to the Parole Chair….

Each year for Christmas, I strive to find a unique gift to send to the five incarcerated Wisconsin men I advocate for. It’s a challenge to find something meaningful beyond a cheerful note and a suitable Christmas card. But each year the perfect gift does come to mind.

This year, their gift was one of action. Since all of them have now been granted parole hearings, they ask friends and loved ones to send letters of support to the parole commission on their behalf. So I did what I felt was most effective. I went straight to the top and sent a letter to the Chairperson of the Parole Commission himself; Mr. Dean Stensberg. Accompanying the letter was a summary compiled from notes I had taken during a recent evidentiary hearing from last July for Keith Kutska, one of the men convicted in the Monfils case.

Here’s the letter: 

December 15, 2015 

Mr. Dean Stensberg

Wisconsin Department of Corrections
3099 E. Washington Ave.
P.O. Box 7925
Madison, WI 53707-7925 

Dear Mr. Stensberg, 

I trust that this message finds you well. 

My name is Joan Treppa. I am a citizen advocate for the wrongfully convicted. I live in Minnesota but for the past six years, I have advocated for the release of the five Wisconsin men convicted in the Tom Monfils murder case who remain behind bars; Keith Kutska, Reynold Moore, Dale Basten, Michael Hirn and Michael Johnson. 

I was compelled to get involved in 2009 after reading the book; The Monfils Conspiracy. Despite my lack of education in the field of law, I recognized that this case was handled in the worst possible manner. In an attempt to find something that would cause me to believe that these convictions were justified, I talked with the authors of the book and I met the exoneree in the case, Michael Piaskowski. I then met with the family members of the men.  But I found nothing. In fact, I found the opposite; the more I learned, the more I was convinced that this case is riddled with corruption and that all of these men are truly innocent.   

In 2011, I hired a retired crime scene expert to re-investigate the case files. He did so thoroughly. And he confirmed my suspicions with the knowledge to make such a determination. So he helped me to find a law firm to represent one of the men, Keith Kutska—the lead suspect in the case. 

In 2013, we were successful. We hired Attorney Steven Z. Kaplan from the law firm of Fredrikson&Byron, PA in Minneapolis to study the case. He spent more than two years combing through the details. His evaluation matched ours; that the case was suspect. But Mr. Kaplan went a bit further in his assessment when he was convinced that the victim, Tom Monfils, had indeed committed suicide. 

Much of the evidence that was available at the time and that pointed to a possible suicide was never addressed during the trial. It should have been. Even Cal Monfils, the victim’s own brother tried to convince the lead detective that the knots on the rope and weight were most likely tied by his brother Tom. But the detective dismissed that notion and assured the one person who knew his own brother better than anyone else that they had already looked into it, when in fact, they had not. The rope and weight were sent to the crime lab. But when the crime lab came back with a recommendation to send the evidence to the Coast Guard, because the knots were determined to be nautical knots, that action was never taken. Let me clarify; those critical pieces of evidence were never sent to a lab that could have properly identified them. 

A thorough investigation would have also included doing a psychological evaluation of Tom Monfils. That was never done. If one had been done, it would have been clear that he had emotional issues and that he was a prime example of someone with suicidal tendencies; he had been in counseling, he kept to himself, his marriage was in shambles, and now he was being chastised for snitching on a co-worker. He died in a manner familiar to him from his Coast Guard days. He was part of a team that retrieved fellow officers who had jumped ship by tying heavy objects around their necks in an attempt to commit suicide. 

A case like this is tragic beyond words. Many lives have been devastated because of it. And the injustice continues as each parole hearing comes and goes with no relief for any of these men. There is no consideration of the actual facts. There is no recognition of the flaws that have been laid out in a recent evidentiary hearing for all to see. There is no justice for these men. 

These men do not lie when they profess their innocence. But in the criminal justice system, there seems to be no patience for those who stand by that claim. But these men do so, despite their understanding that it will mean a longer prison term. Is it so hard to understand that they will never fail their own conscience; that they will never sacrifice their integrity and that they will never admit to something they did not do? 

I stand by these men and will do so as long as they seek freedom. I believe they will see that day come because I believe in them. I believe in everything they stand for. And I believe they are innocent. 

I’ve included a summary I compiled last summer in regards to the evidentiary hearing. I hope you take the time to read it and learn about the many facets of this case that were never covered properly. 

When these men do come up for parole, it should be clear to those who stand in judgement of them exactly why they stand firm in their innocence. My aim is to provide that knowledge. And I urge the commission to release all of these men as soon as possible. 

Thank you for your time.

Happy Holidays. 

Update: A week later, on December 22nd, Mr. Stensberg called me on the phone to acknowledge my letter. He was pleasant and expressed his appreciation for my support of these men. He explained that my actions are an important aspect of the parole process, etc…but what was clear to me was that my letter had struck a chord. After all, he could’ve brushed me off with a formal and hollow response. So I expressed my gratitude and allowed him to continue.

Mr. Stensberg voiced his concern about taking the proper legal steps on behalf of the men. I felt he had missed the jist of my detailed letter. He then contended that it is not the responsibility of the parole board to determine guilt or innocence but to decide through a number of factors whether adequate time has been served, given the crime committed. He did not specifically identify those factors but my recollection of them as stated on the parole commission website, are as follows:

Criteria for parole:

  • Reached the Parole Eligibility Date in his or her sentence.
  • Served sufficient time for punishment of his or her crime(s).
  • Shown positive changes in behavior as well as documented progress in programming, treatment and/or educational achievement.
  • A viable parole plan which offers the offender realistic opportunities for a stable residence, employment, and programming, if needed.
  • An acceptably reduced level of risk to the public. The criteria for determining risk include past criminal and incarceration record, probation and parole violations, security classification, and any unmet treatment or programs needs.

As he spoke, I thought of how all of these men have satisfactorily fulfilled these directives, some having gone well above and beyond and how they’re still being denied parole. But the reality for those truly innocent, like the men in this case who refuse to admit guilt for a crime they didn’t commit, this program is merely a façade, a formality, giving outsiders the impression that it’s about rehabilitation.

Who within this organization would ever admit to an unwritten rule preventing early release for inmates asserting their innocence? On the contrary, this is viewed as an inmates inability or outright refusal to show remorse. Just ask any exoneree.

During our discussion my impression of this man wasn’t reassuring as he firmly stressed the integrity of his office and the seriousness with which they enact the commission’s responsibilities. There was no point in pushing back. It was hopeless and served no purpose. For the time being, keeping this communication line open, did.

In conclusion, Stensberg reassured me,”We are watching the Monfils case closely and we are concerned with the aging men.” But as I listened, my understanding was that Mr. Stensberg was trying to convince me of something far fetched. I wasn’t buying it and I realized that nothing would ever change for these men regarding parole.

My last statement to this man was one of urgency to release these men as soon as possible. But now, in a recent visit to the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections website, I noticed Mr. Dean Stensberg is no longer Commission Chairperson.

A Slow but Steady Pace…

A Walk for Truth; A Walk for Justice – Held on Friday, October 30, 2015 on the Brown County Courthouse steps in Green Bay, Wisconsin. For the past 5 years this event has transpired on or close to October 28-the day in 1995 in which 6 men were convicted of 1st degree intentional homicide for the murder of co-worker Tom Monfils at the then James River Paper Mill (now Georgia Pacific) in Downtown Green Bay.

The book published in 2009 that caught my attention called, The Monfils Conspiracy; The Conviction of Six Innocent Men, is described on their website as such: “Gullickson and Gaie trace the futile twenty-nine month investigation between the time of Monfils’ death and the convictions, pock-marked with dead end leads and overlooked evidence. Using solid facts, they lay bare the weaknesses, inconsistencies and secrets in the prosecution’s case and the jury’s erroneous rush to judgement. As recently as 2001, a federal judge ordered the release of one of the men, citing a lack of evidence, and further suggesting the original proof as unsound.” Six Innocent Men 

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Denis Gullickson speaking to the crowd before our march

I had traveled over to Green Bay on Thursday, October 29th. On Friday morning, my sister Clare and I were on our way to purchase candles for the event when we received a call from John Gaie. John said that Reporter Raquel Lamal from NBC 26 in Green Bay had called Denis for an interview regarding that evening’s rally. Denis had told her that he wasn’t available. John asked if I’d be willing to do the interview instead. I was excited to oblige, so I gave Raquel a call. She came to my sister’s house and expressed her intention to show the human side of this tragedy. This was great news. Raquel’s piece aired on the 5 pm newscast following the event. Raquel also broadcasted live during the event. Heartfelt thanks go out to Raquel for her efforts!

Clare Martinson, Raquel Lamal and Joan Treppa

Clare Martinson, NBC 26 Reporter Raquel Lamal and Joan at the rally

The event was filled with the usual energy and excitement. Denis Gullickson; co-author of the Monfils Conspiracy book, and emcee, started things off by sharing his usual upbeat thoughts. He walked us through the countless series of activities many of us had engaged in over the years while running back and forth between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Much of what Denis said felt like ancient history because of the inroads we’ve made since then. Way back when, we’d forged ahead during many uncertain times. It was a relief to now savor what appears to be a bright and hopeful future as each year brings additional interest and positive new developments for us to convey to the community.

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Photo taken in 2009 at a book signing at The Reader’s Loft in Green Bay. (L toR) John Gaie, Clare Martinson, Michael Piaskowski, Joan Treppa and Denis Gullickson

Denis included a major development from the past year; a 152-page motion had been filed on October 31st in 2014 by lead Attorney Steve Kaplan. It was a request for an evidentiary hearing on behalf of Keith Kutska-the main suspect in the case. The hearing itself would allow the legal team to present new findings to justify a request for a brand new trial for Kutska. That motion was granted and a 3-day evidentiary hearing took place on July 7, 8 and 22 of 2015. An astonishing 14 witnesses testified to evidence that should have been brought forth at the original trial. As of November 13, 2015, there has been no word on a ruling from that hearing.

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Joan in center with exonerees Michael Piaskowski (L) and Mario Victoria Vasquez (R)

I delivered a much shorter speech that consisted of my gratitude for the hard work that Denis, John, and exoneree Mike Piaskowski had put into the book. I highlighted the continuance of the bravery of the families and friends of the men. I let them know that they are a treasured part of my life and the focus of the inspiration instilled within me. My final thoughts were of two of my heroes standing alongside me onstage-two wrongfully convicted men who had been exonerated from that same county; Michael Piaskowski (from the Monfils case) in 2001, and Mario Victoria Vasquez, released earlier this year and who now supports our efforts to free the five remaining men. I stressed to those present that these two men represent real hope and are living proof that the other five have a significant chance of returning home. The crowd voiced their delight and we relished in this special moment.

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Family, friends and supporters touting signs carrying messages of innocence during the rally

The families and close friends of the five men had saved old signs from past rallies and worked hard to create additional ones for us to carry during our march around the block. Signs professing the innocence of all six men were highly visible from every angle. We carried candles to illuminate this anniversary with seven of us holding special candle holders with photos to commemorate all of the men unjustly represented in this case.

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(L to R) Decedent Tom Monfils, wrongly convicted Dale Basten, Michael Johnson, Michael Hirn, Reynold Moore and Keith Kutska and exoneree Michael Piaskowski

A few folks who were not related but had heard about the case in the news came to show their support. One of our youngest participants, Reece (orange sweatshirt), came with his Dad. Reece had read the Monfils book and insisted on showing his support by attending. Another young lady, Makayla, had contacted me a few months back expressing her interest as well. She had also read the book, attended the hearing in July and is currently doing a report on the case for school. She was not able to attend that evening but said that she would be with us in spirit. I believe that these young adults represent a new generation of open-minded supporters who view this overall issue in a very realistic way. And they will take its message seriously rather than exhibit apathy.

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Supporters march around the city block. 

These events; the motion, the hearing and our rallies represent major milestones after 23 years of setbacks and denials from prior failed attempts to appeal the verdicts. There is renewed hope and encouragement for those whose lives have been destroyed, that can never be shattered. For those who have lived this nightmare, it has been nothing short of a miracle, knowing that others now believe in them and care enough to act on their behalf. Their appreciation overflows whenever we get together and their warm hugs are filled with sincere gratitude. Most importantly, the strong bond between us will never be broken. And no matter what the future holds, it will not break our slow but steady pace to true justice for all involved!

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.

Weighing in on a Preponderance of Evidence…

People commend my persistence to aid in the relief of five innocent Wisconsin men convicted of murder in 1995. Many others seem bewildered at my desire to do so. But for me, what began as a simple humanitarian effort has turned into a battle between good and evil. I’ve been known to say that if the details of this Monfils case weren’t so tragic, they’d almost be laughable. I’ve witnessed the lives of the innocent dangling on one side of an unbalanced judicial scale as if they are somehow less important, while those on the opposing side expect us to believe in theories that require a creative imagination. My spirit grows weary from the constant rhetoric surrounding the case. And my anger soars as I ponder the reality that this is not about guilt, innocence, or justice, but about career advancement and narcissist pride on behalf of the authorities. With those elements in place, there is no true justice. It’s more about closing a case and ignoring facts-a prevailing factor of all wrongful convictions.

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Dale Basten (74 yrs old)*

A thorough examination of this case reveals both the facts and the outcome of six guilty verdicts, are erroneous at best. I’d sure like to believe had I been sitting on the sidelines as a juror in 1995 when they were told the series of events leading up to the death were incomplete and riddled with “holes” and “gaps” that could not be rectified, that I’d have immediately jumped out of my seat and headed for the door yelling at the top of my lungs,”Be sure to call me when those holes and gaps are filled!” Wouldn’t that have been sensational? But would it have made an ounce of difference? Since when is it my place to question the powers that be? And how preposterous of me to challenge those who’d like to think they’re smarter than me? But what is most unfortunate is that not enough of us demand answers for things we find preposterous.

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Reynold Moore (70 yrs old)*

There is much to absorb with the 3-day evidentiary hearing behind us. As we embark on an excruciating long waiting period, hoping the court’s ruling will be swift, I avoid contemplating the possibility that our efforts could fail, despite the evidence that was presented. Each passing day represents a harsh reminder of what my friends; Keith Kutska, Reynold Moore, Michael Johnson, Dale Basten and Michael Hirn have endured every single day for 20+ years. And there’s the nagging question regarding the exoneration of Michael Piaskowski in 2001-the only exoneration in this case so far. How is it that six men were tried together but only one of them has been freed?

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Michael Johnson (68 yrs old)*

I cannot help but contemplate other thought-provoking questions. When will this nightmare end? What will be the prevailing factor? And when those prison doors do open, will there be adequate monetary compensation?

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Keith Kutska (64 yrs old)*

In the meantime I ask that you take time to read this 90-page document filed on September 2, 2015, with its vast amount of new evidence. It supports the belief that this was not murder but a likelihood that the victim, Tom Monfils, took his own life.

In the past six years amid all the twists and turns on an unrelenting road to freedom, I’ve given up trying to make sense of the madness. And I’ve yet to get through a single one of these documents without the usual indignation…

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Michael Hirn (51 yrs old) 

*All images courtesy of Artist Jared Manninen