State Reviewing Parole Request in “Monfils Six” Case (ABC2 March 31, 2015)

By Sarah Thomsen Published: March 31, 2015, 8:59 am Updated: March 31, 2015, 9:17 pm

The State Parole Commission is deciding whether to release one of the so-called “Monfils Six.” This, as lawyers for Keith Kutska add to their claims that Tom Monfils killed himself.

The Department of Corrections only says it’s reviewing the parole request with no timeframe for a decision.

Kutska is the last of the six to be eligible for parole. Only one, Mike Piaskowski, had his conviction overturned. None of the others still in prison has been granted parole. All six men have maintained their innocence.

Kutska’s new lawyers, with the Minnesota Innocence Project, are trying to get a new trial in Brown County. They filed a new motion just days ago saying the whole case was “circumstantial” at best.

Last November, Action 2 News showed you motions filed by the Minnesota Innocence Project on Kutska’s behalf claiming Monfils was suicidal, fascinated with death, and ended his own life.

A 1995 jury, though, agreed with prosecutors that Monfils died at the hands of six coworkers who severely beat him and threw him in the pulp vat because Monfils had called police on Kutska for stealing an electrical cord from the plant.

Forensic pathologist Helen Young ruled Monfils’s death a homicide, and at trial she pointed out extensive and brutal injuries to his body she concluded had to be caused by someone else.

But in the latest motion filed last week, Kutska’s defense calls this a “circumstantial homicide,” saying there is no evidence there actually was a beating. The defense’s own expert casts “serious doubt on whether any of Monfils’s injuries resulted from a beating.”

The State says these claims shouldn’t even be allowed in court, because Young is now dead and can’t refute them.

The other big argument surrounds what Kutska’s lawyers call the prosecution’s big break in the case: a witness who claimed Kutska told him in a conversation at a bar about a confrontation and the beating of Monfils. Kutska’s lawyers contend that “testimony was a complete fiction” and so was the statement a witness saw Monfils’s body being carried away.  The defense says witnesses who did not “tell police what they wanted to hear were threatened.”

On April 15, a judge will consider whether to bring in witnesses for testimony. If that happens, it could be months before a ruling on whether to grant a new trial.

Brown County’s district attorney says this is just rehashing old issues, adding a “sensational and unsupported theory of suicide.”

The former lead prosecutor in the case has called these new claims “ridiculous.”

Longtime family friend and lawyer for the Monfils family, Bruce Bachhuber, called the suicide theory “laughable.” He gave this statement to Action 2 News:

“As one who sat through much of the criminal trial and conducted depositions of all of the defendants and many other employees of the James River Paper Mill, the suicide theory is laughable.  Anyone who listened to the trial testimony could tell that the defendants were lying about their involvement.  It is a monumental waste of judicial time and resources that the court must now, 22 years and 4 months after Tom’s tragic death, reconsider a suicide theory that was made to appear so preposterous at the time of trial that the defense lawyers knew better than to seriously embrace it. “

Posted on: February 15, 2017Jared Manninen