Oct 15, 1995, Monfils Homicide: Prosecution is wrapping up its case
Defense takes aim at prosecution gaps The Monfils trial Today on B-1 B-1 B-1 Investigator remains under fire Trial week in review The prosecution's strategy The prosecution is wrapping up its case against six men charged with being party to homicide in the death of Tom Monfils on Nov. 21 , 1992, at the James River paper mill. Prosecutors say co-workers co-workers co-workers confronted Monfils with a tape of Monfils tellinc- tellinc- police that Keith Kutska planned to steal an extension cord from the mill. ,: Core strategy: Prosecutors are trying to prove that workers' anger over Monfils' call to police led to a mob confronting and beating Monfils, then throwing him into a pulp vat. The party to homicide charge covers those who aid and abet the commission of a crime or take part in a conspiracy to commit a crime Jury must be persuaded that Wiener, Bowers testimony is true but may be mistaken about times. ' Kutska and Piaskowski confronted Monfils with the tape in Monfils' No. 7 machine's control booth, probably about 7:20 a.m. Eventually , .Kutska and Piaskowski a .go to No. 9 booth. Several witnesses last VrTTnTf- fC saw Monws wonung - . - 1 at the No. 7 paper wmmmmmmTj- wmmmmmmTj- reported Monfils 1 machine at 7:35 a.m. I f!7 I missing I tcs Tci rtrnurt tha ni uft nf ll civ I ' Kefendarrts, the prosecution assumesXH I ircle of evidence: Witness testimony places the six defendants at or near the area in the mill where prosecutors say Monfils was beaten. Core strategy , To prove the guilt of all six ' defendants, the prosecution the time of death, establishes the place of the attack and then relies on testimony to place all six there at the time. The state's case against all six defendants depends largely on the case against Kutska, whose actions prosecutors say launched the whole confrontation. If the jury believes he's guilty... Police say Him said he knew who killed Monfils Charles Bowers saw Moore near vat about 7:30 a.m. David Wiener saw Basten and Johnson carrying something near vat about 7:30 a.m. Various witnesses 7 say a gathering in or near No. 9 control booth between 7:35 and 7:50 a.m. included: Keith Kutska ...Mike Piaskowski Mike Hirn Kellner's testimony about role-playing role-playing role-playing specifically plugs Kutska, Moore and Him into the attack and, to a lesser degree, Piaskowski, Basten and Johnson. Rey Moore uaie Basten ,tjMike Johnson. Which places them in a position for,,,, V j(f. - -v -v . 1 Jlurors are more ableX fi , s- s- f to accept accept as lfai,tZ ' ' f reliable testimony by I P U W'T4 '1. I Brian Kellner and 1 'J '-iff) '-iff) '-iff) 1 Verna Irish regarding J V- V- ' "' . ',si ' 1 statements Kutska m allegedly made in a : g$$mafrQM$rvli Javern. That testimony T-fw T-fw T-fw A rnnfrnntaSnn that . - included the six l f ri defendants at Lt.l a iL. U..l-l U..l-l U..l-l I a ii its uuuutet or m I somewhere hear the M J : ; No. 9 machine. M L Jeff Herman says he saw Kutska spraying the floor near the No. 9 machine twice on the weekend of Monfils' disappearance. Reporting by Paul Srubas Graphic by Joe Heller Also contributing: Staff writer Anne Klemm The accused Keith Kutska: Accused of inciting co-workers co-workers co-workers to confront Tom Monfils because Monfils told police Kutska planned to steal an extension cord from the mill. Mike Piaskowski: Allegedly helped Kutska confront Monfils in a paper mill control room and later helped others trap Monfils in an area by a drinking fountain. Dale Basten: Accused of blocking Monfils' path from the drinking fountain and later was seen carrying something heavy with Mike Johnson near the vat where Monfils' body was found. Mike Hirn: Accused of pushing Monfils while Monfils was making an entry in a production log and later helped others corner Monfils by the drinking fountain. Mike Johnson: Allegedly blocked Monfils' path from the drinking fountain and later was seen carrying something heavwith Basten near the vat where Monfils' body was found. Rey Moore: Allegedly blocked Monfils' path out of the control room while others circulated around to block his path in the front. State's case filled with discrepancies By Anne Klemm and Paul Srubas Press-Gazette Press-Gazette Press-Gazette As the state prepares to wrap up its case in the Tom Monfils trial, jurors may recall prosecutor Larry Lasee's words from three weeks ago: "If details are extremely important important to you, you're going to be disappointed," disappointed," he 6aid in the state's opening statements. "There are gaps." Defense lawyers this week will begin picking at those gaps, hoping hoping to tear down the structure that police and prosecutors have tried to build since Nov. 21, 1992, the day Monfils died. Prosecutors say Dale Basten, Mike Hirn, Mike Johnson, Keith Kutska, Rey Moore and Mike Piaskowski conspired to kill Monfils at the James River paper mill. After three weeks and about 40 witnesses, prosecutors have built a case that presents an account of the six defendants beating Monfils into unconsciousness and then throwing his weighted body into a paper pulp vat. However, as Lasee promised, the state's case has gaps, including: No physical evidence that there was a beating where prosecutors prosecutors say Monfils was attacked. No first-hand first-hand first-hand witnesses saying they saw that beating. Only one person in the mill who comes close to seeing a body: David Wiener, a convicted felon, who can only say he saw Basten and Johnson carrying something heavy roughly toward the vat. Lots of witnesses saying they heard defendants saying things that may, or may not, hint at involvement in Monfils' beating. Testimony by witnesses including some previously given by the defendants themselves with conflicting information about who was seen in various locations in the mill and when. ', The defense already has worked hard to underscore the discrepancies discrepancies in those conflicting accounts. Defense lawyers have attacked the credibility of witnesses and suggested that police interview techniques and massive media publicity about the case affected witness testimony. They also have repeatedly pointed pointed out for jurors that a presumably bloody beating left no physical traces, and no one says theylsaw any of the defendants bloodied or disheveled after the alleged attack. Some have also appeared to shift suspicion to other people not charged in the case, including two former millworkers. More of the same is likely as defense lawyers get their chance to call witnesses to the stand during during the next few weeks. Still, prosecutors believe they do not have to show that every defendant defendant participated in actually beating beating Monfils or throwing his body into a pulp vat They contend it's enough to show that the defendants conspired conspired to kill Monfils or took part in criminal activity they should have known would lead to Monfils' death. They're hoping the battery of testimony they've provided sets up a plausible account of Monfils' death and successfully plugs the defendants into it.