Wisconsin state court rules man convicted of Green Bay paper mill worker's murder in 1992 will not receive new trial

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin , January 26, 2012 () – Rey Moore, one of six men convicted of killing Tom Monfils in a Green Bay paper mill in 1992, will not get a new trial, a state appeals court ruled today.

Moore’s case is the only one actively on appeal, and the court decision represents the latest setback for the five men still serving prison terms in the case.

Moore’s lawyer, Byron Lichstein of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, said he and his staff have 30 days to review the appellate court decision, confer with Moore and decide whether to seek a review by the state Supreme Court.

“If there’s absolutely no basis for pursuing it, the rules prohibit us from doing it,” Lichstein said. “We have decisions to make and consultations to do.”

Moore, Keith Kutska, Dale Basten, Michael Johnson, Michael Hirn and Michael Piaskowski were convicted in 1995 of beating Monfils, 35, tying a weight around his neck and dumping him in a paper pulp vat, where his partially decomposed body was found the next day.

According to prosecutors, the men were angry that Monfils had told police that Kutska planned to steal a coil of wire from what was then the James River Paper Mill, and the report eventually led to Kutska being suspended without pay.

Piaskowski was freed in 2001 after a federal court ruled there had been insufficient evidence to convict him.

Moore is due for a parole hearing in coming weeks. He, Johnson and Hirn have been denied parole in the past; Basten and Kutska aren’t eligible until 2012 and 2015, respectively.

Moore’s appeal was largely based on testimony from James Gilliam, a jailhouse informant who twice testified Moore told him he’d participated in Monfils’ beating. Gilliam twice recanted that testimony — though not under oath — and said Moore actually told him that he had tried to prevent the others from beating Monfils. Moore sought a new trial so that a jury could be made aware of that.

The Wausau-based appellate court ruled there was no reason to conclude that Gilliam’s sworn statement at a new trial would differ from his previous sworn statements.

Moore had testified at the trial that he never spoke with Gilliam, “and thus, it’s self-defeating for the defense to argue at a new trial that Gilliam’s recantation version is the truth,” the appellate court said.

The appellate court also said prosecutors could present strong circumstantial proof of Moore’s guilt without depending on Gilliam’s testimony.

Lichstein today disagreed with that statement and repeated a statement made by the federal court in its overturning of Piaskowski’s case. The federal court had called the state’s case “conjecture camouflaged as evidence.”

“I think that remains the case,” Lichstein said. “The state has patched this together from not very much, but … the court of appeals took a different viewpoint.”

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