As I walked past a small grocery store on main street a woman exited carrying an impossible load of groceries. Also dangling at her finger tips was a six pack of beverages in glass bottles. It was obvious that she was struggling to contain everything. But I kept on walking. The sound of glass crashing to the cement behind me seconds later still did not compel me to lend a hand. Instead I chose to feel ashamed and embarrassed and I feared retribution from her because of my failure to come to her aid.
When I share this story some ask why she didn’t use a cart. I say, “Why didn’t I help?” When others suggest I should let it go and move on I say, “Not in a million years!”
Joan Treppa reading the forward* for her upcoming book Reclaiming Lives; Pursuing Justice for Six Innocent Men at the 2016 Walk for Truth and Justice in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
There are many problems too large for me to change but if I can at least make a difference in my tiny corner of the world hopefully it will filter up and affect the bigger picture. Five years ago I was given the chance to put that idea to the test in a big way. I learned of a real legal case in which six innocent men were sent to prison for a crime they did not commit. After learning more details, it became apparent that I cannot and should not walk away this time. I became a public voice for these people and I focused my efforts on seeking out legal representation for them.
Many in similar situations typically have no money to seek adequate legal help so they sit in prison, praying for someone to care about what has happened to them. Many of them write letters trying to find help but with very little luck which only serves to bottom out an already defeated soul.
I learned of an organization called the Innocence Project (IP), an organization that charges nothing to represent incarcerated people with legitimate claims of innocence. The great thing is, the IP is more than willing to help if they can. The bad thing is, they rely heavily on public donations to fund their work. Those funds are often inadequate forcing organization staff to turn away many desperate cries for help.
Late last year, an idea by my artistic son, Jared Manninen, to “get me out there” was the motivation to create this website to highlight what I do on behalf of six Wisconsin men, especially when things started to progress favorably for them. I felt I was taking a leap of faith and I honestly didn’t think that my site would solicit much attention. I could not have been more wrong! Thanks to all of you for showing unbelievable compassion and for caring enough to listen to and share my message.
Update: Book was published in June, 2017. It won a national book award in November, 2017. Available on Amazon or through this website.
*Forward was written by one of the six men, Keith Kutska. View a recording of Kutska being interviewed by the Green Bay Press Gazette in 2009.