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Marchers: Flawed prosecution led to ’92 slaying convictions

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Supporters of six men who were convicted in a grisly 1992 Green Bay killing are continuing their efforts to get the convictions overturned, arguing that the men were victims of flawed investigation and prosecution.

About 60 people marched Friday around the Brown County courthouse, chanting that they wanted “truth and justice now.”

The six men were convicted in the death of their co-worker, Tom Monfils, whose body was found in a pulp vat at a Green Bay paper mill. A weight had been tied around his neck.

Prosecutors said the six men killed him because he told police one of them planned to steal an extension cord. But critics have said the facts didn’t seem to add up.

Two local authors who wrote a book on the Monfils slaying allege that the convictions were based on a faulty police timeline. And lawyers with the Wisconsin Innocence Project have said that incriminating testimony used in some of the convictions came from other inmates who claimed — then later recanted — that the defendants had confessed to them.

The rally Friday came on the 16th anniversary of the date that Dale Basten, Michael Hirn, Michael Johnson, Keith Kutska, Rey Moore and Michael Piaskowski were convicted. It’s the second year the protesters marched on that date.

All six were sentenced to life in prison. Piaskowski was freed in 2001 after a higher court overturned his conviction on the basis of insufficient evidence, but the other five remain in prison and have had parole requests repeatedly denied.

Piaskowski said all six will keep fighting to get their names cleared, according to a Green Bay Press-Gazette report.

“It certainly seems it’s fighting a huge battle, but it’s worth striving for,” he said at the rally. “These guys are truly innocent.”

Speakers at the rally called upon Brown County district attorney John Zakowski to reopen the case. However, the prosecutor said he’s satisfied the verdict was just.

“The fact there are people who are well-intentioned and still giving protestations doesn’t render the verdict any less reliable, because the verdict was based on the evidence,” he said.

Moore has appealed his conviction with the assistance of the Innocence Project. The group’s attorney, Byron Lichstein, argued that the conviction should be overturned because of questionable testimony by prison inmate James Gilliam. He had testified that Moore told him he participated in a group beating of Monfils at the mill.

But Lichstein said Gilliam later reversed his story, saying Moore actually tried to prevent the beating.
Zakowski said he reviewed trial transcripts because of Moore’s appeal and “it seems so apparent. If someone with an open mind reviews a transcript of the entire trial and uses common sense, they’ll find that the jury reached the right conclusion.”

Lichstein said an appeals court decision in Moore’s case could come in the next three months.

Information from: Green Bay Press-Gazette, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com

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