In April, Fox 9 brought you the story of a woman from Blaine, Minnesota, who turned crusader for six men convicted of murder in Wisconsin. On Wednesday, one of the six was in court for a hearing that will determine whether he gets a new trial.
The crusader, Joan Treppa, was inspired by the book, The Monfils Conspiracy, about a group of men who were convicted of murdering a man at the James River Paper Mill in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 1992. The book contends six innocent men went to jail for the alleged crime.
Treppa knew she wanted to help, but first, she was at a loss of where to start. She didn’t know any of the inmates so she started to write them letters. Additionally, she had no investigative or legal experience, so she found a former investigator to help, and convinced a top Minneapolis attorney to come out of retirement and help with the case.
It was that attorney, Steven Kaplan, who faced off against the lead detective in the case on Wednesday in an attempt to get a new trial.
The case all started on November 21, 1992 when the body of Tom Monfils was found at the bottom of a pulp vat with a rope around his neck that was tied to a 50 pound weight. The investigation soon turned to six of Monfils’ co-workers. Prosecutors alleged the six beat up Monfils and threw him in the vat in retaliation for snitching on one member of the group, Keith Kutska, for taking some mill property.
A jury found all six men guilty. One was later freed when a judge exonerated him. However, the rest have been in prison ever since.
Steve Kaplan argued the death of Monfils was more likely a suicide, and the lead detective was clouded early on by a pathologist concluding the death was homicide. Kaplan is also tried to show the former detective threatened witnesses to get them to lie. Kaplan got the detective to admit that despite his belief Monfils was beaten, police never found a single trace of evidence, like blood, in the mill.
The hearings concluded on Wednesday. Both sides will now submit written arguments to the judge who will decide if Kustka gets a new trial. That decision is not expected until October at the earliest.