Wednesday, July 04, 2007

In memory of Evan Zimmerman

by Mike “Pie” Piaskowski – Green Bay, WI

Yesterday I received the sad news that a fellow Wisconsin exoneree and good friend of mine by the name of Evan Zimmerman passed away of cancer. He was only 61.

Evan was incarcerated for more than three years after being convicted of first-degree intentional homicide in the strangulation death of his ex-lady friend in 2001. Kathy Thompson, 38, had been found dead in February 2000 in Eau Claire, WI. Ev, a former police officer himself, was arrested about a year later and was eventually convicted of the unsolved murder.

With the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Ev successfully appealed on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel and won the right to a retrial. In 2005 the judge ruled that certain unreliable testimony could not be used at the new trial. Without the tainted evidence and nothing else to rely on the DA dropped all charges. Ev steadfastly denied any involvement in her death – maintaining his innocence from the very beginning.

After his release from prison Ev was forced to move from Eau Claire to LaCrosse, WI after bringing a wrongful-conviction lawsuit against the Eau Claire police department. Sadly, in 2006 the federal court dismissed the suit.

In 2005 the A&E channel put together a documentary about Evan’s case by the name of "Facing Life - The Retrial of Evan Zimmerman". It was aired in April 2006.

Ev was a wonderful person and will be missed by many. Let us pray that we can all work together, in Evan's name, as well as all of the exonerees throughout the country, to help eliminate these and all other forms of injustice created by our justice system.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Thanks for posting that. I recently watched the A&E show about him here in the UK and it struck a cord.

I remember at the end of the show it mentioned he was turned down for a janitorial job, because of his record, which I thought must have been devastating for him

Googled to see what became of him and ran across this blog.

May he RIP.

cat said...

i watched the first part of the retrial of evan zimmerman some time ago and only today saw part two. im so glad he was found not guilty and saddened to learn of his extremely premature death. i hope he found peace

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I've seen the programme about the retrial & I can honestly say that from about 5 minutes into the broadcast I thought Evan was innocent! I hope he's now at peace!

South African said...

Hi, I've seen both episodes of Evans story and had tears in my eys at the outcome of it. Sad to see he passed away. May you rest in peace Evan. God bless.

Anonymous said...

I just finisned watching the documentary and wanted to know what became of Evan. I'm so sorry to read that he has passed and at such a young age. I am happy that his children got to spend the past two years with him. Peace and blessings to his family and to you for passing on informationabout him. He seemed to besuch a nice man.

Toronto, Canada said...

I just watched the retrial of Evan Zimmerman. I was so touched by him and his story. I hope that he received an apology from the police force and prosecution, at the very least. I want to commend keith and his team for everything they did for Evan and the compassion they showed him. You should be very proud of yourself. Hopefully, Evan is at peace, finally.

Anonymous said...

Saw the the A&E Special. Evan played everyone. The guy is another O.J.. In the end (his death), true justice was served. When is O.J. dying??

Anonymous said...

I just watched the A&E show and googled to see what'd become of Evan. I also read some of the court documents from his appeal, and there's no way he was guilty. The lack of fiber and hair transfers between him, his van and the victim leave no doubt that he's innocent.

It's too bad to see that he's passed. He seemed like a good guy. I'm really glad he lived to see his name cleared.

Anonymous said...

I watched the show today about his retrial. There was no way that he was guilty! I'm sad to hear of his passing, but glad to know that he is in heaven and at peace for the wrong doings that were put against him.

It reminded me about the 'Hurricane Carter' trial that I saw. False evidence and incorrect procedures will get you no where. Truth and justice will always prevail in the end.

God speed to Evan!

Anonymous said...

I just got done watching the documentary and its a sad sight to see how the people who are suppossed to help us take our lives from us.
I cant believe anyone with half a brain could convict a man like Evan without any evidence what so ever.
anyhow it was good to see he one his case and may god be with him.

Victora, BC said...

I just saw the A&E special and felt compelled to google Evan. I am sorry to learn he has since passed, but am glad his name was cleared in time. RIP.

Anonymous said...

So, if he didn't do it, who did??????? The case to convict was shaky, but he has no idea what he did that night or the next morning. I think he did it in a drunken stupor--but convinced himself he was innocent.

I read through the evidence--he wanted to clear "his good name". What a joke--he said some of the crudest things I have ever heard. He had no good name to clear.
But what a great system of justice we have--you always get the benefit of the doubt--of course, unless you are black.

Truth in Justice Files said...

Evan Zimmerman did not get the benefit of the doubt -- which is one of the reasons he was convicted in the first place. That benefit went instead to a serial killer who murdered before and who murdered after Evan ex-girlfriend was killed, and in the same manner.

Anonymous said...

Why wasn't his record cleared. He should not have been turned down for that janitorial job.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the A&E special on Evan Zimmerman. Felt compelled to google him. I am grateful to Keith and his team for fighting the good fight. I pray Evan's family had time to heal before his death. I am glad he is at peace.

Truth in Justice Files said...

Regarding why Evan's record wasn't cleared (so he lost a janitorial job), expunging a conviction is a separate process. It doesn't happen automatically when a conviction is reversed. As you know, he was re-tried and the prosecutor dismissed the charge halfway through trial. But the prosecutor also continued to insist that Evan was guilty, and the local police -- cutting yet another break for a serial killer -- refused to re-open the investigation. Evan sued the police, city, etc., and had he won, he would have had a good foundation to seek expungement. But he LOST. And by then, he was sick with the cancer that ultimately took his life.

Even when exonerees get their records expunged, there's no guarantee that they won't be turned down for even the most menial job because they spent time in prison for a crime they didn't commit. How do they explain a 5, 10, 15, 20 or more year gap in their work histories? If they lie, they'll be caught in the lie and fired for lying. If they tell the truth, odds are they won't get the job.

I know one exoneree who was freed when the real killer confessed. His record was expunged. But he could not find a job because of his history of imprisonment. He ended up taking employment as a contractor in the war zone because that was literally all he could get. Even when the real criminal confesses or is caught through DNA, there will be people who insist that the exoneree MUST have done SOMETHING or he/she would not have been charged. Employers don't want anyone "controversial" working for them.

Another indignity against exonerees (and presumably prisoners who are guilty as well) is identity theft. An exoneree I know, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for rape, was released after 3 years when his conviction was reversed. He found that someone had assumed his identity, opened numerous credit accounts, run up massive bills, and left him holding the bag. The only reason it wasn't worse was that he was released from prison a lot sooner than the identity thief expected. And he had yet another mess to defend.

Anonymous said...

There are alot more Evan's in the prison system. I am a paralegal currently working to get a man freed that has been imprisoned for a crime he definitely did not do for 30 years. Absolutely no evidence but a very crooked prosecutor Michael Goggin who never missed a days work in Oak Park, IL. While the police have tunnel vision the real killer is free to kill again. Too bad America has so many closed minded people who serve on juries. Evan suffered more than money could have ever made up for, and so did his children.

Kemmie said...

I just finished watching the A&E documentary on Mr. Zimmerman and was so touched by what happened to this man. I was curious to see what happened to him after the documentary as at the end it stated he was denied a janitorial job. I hope that he is now at peace and my thoughts and prayers are with his family.

goof036 said...

I am in the middle of watching Evan Zimmerman's retrial and I wanted to see what happened to him because I don't see how he was convicted in the first place. It saddens me to see he has passed away from cancer. I can only hope he died peacefully. Evan may you rest in peace.

sgtvonj said...

When you read the negative comments from some on this blog, one must quickly recognize that these people have never gone through or suffer any disservices in their lives. I truly hope that they never do. Aside from having cancer, I'm sure the man was emotionally drained from the whole experience. I hope that he has found peace in God, and that those who question the man's innocence, never have to suffer such. Furthermore, there is this stated difference between innocence and being "found not guilty". I submit to you they are one in the same. If by law the accused is innocent until proven guilty, then if you don't prove them guilty, then they revert to what they started out as. They don't convert to this new status.

Michelle W - South Wales, UK said...

I watched crime and investigation today and watched the A&E show and felt compelled to google Evan Zimmerman to find out what happened after the show, its such a shame that such a genuine gentleman was tried for something that quite simply he couldnt have done! Its such a shame he didnt get the janitorial job but at least now he can rest in peace... thank you Evan for making me realise how backhanded the police are and how they will miss what is vital evidence to get the conviction! RIP Evan xxx

maria UK.. said...

Like most people, after watching the documentary i wanted to see what became of evan, so sad to hear that he has passed on, i'm sure he found peace and thoughts are with his family for thier loss

Sue UK said...

I, like many other people wanted to know what happened to Evan after the documentary. I was very sad to find that he has since died. I thought he was a very brave person to go through the second trial knowing that he could still go back to prison, but he needed to clear his name.

RIP Evan

Anonymous said...

I just finished watching the story of Mr. Zimmerman and I am very saddened at his passing. Thankfully he died a free man who's innocence is now known to the world. His story of strength, perserverence and eventual salvation brought tears to my eyes and I am so sorry that he has passed. May he rest in peace and his story be a lesson and a source of hope to us all.
mrk_ndhm@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

oh...its so sad that bad things can happen to good people.what a brave man,may his soul rest in peace.
its so sad to say,the cops are not ur friend,if they can do that to one of their own,then the ordinary man is not safe.too bad....

Paul T, Leicester, UK said...

Like most others I watched the 2 hour documentary - it's August 2008, and I was eager to find out what became of him.

Evan's health was poor at the time of the retrial, so I had a bad feeling, but really sad to hear that he passed away so soon after gaining his freedom.

The prosecution case was sickening. For the coroner to not know about the blue and black fibres and for the trace analyst to not have compared the blue fibres under her nails to those on her neck is ludicrous. To say she was strangled with a phone cord was totally disproven. Also, the neighbour's testimony that Evan had told her Kathy had been strangled before anyone but the killer and police knew - but that she hadn't mentioned it in a dozen interviews with police - suggests coercion many months later.

A shame that the original trial and sentence did him so much physical damage, but in fairness he wasn't looking after himself at the time either. Just a shame that prison helped him kick his alcoholism but simply ruined his health in other ways at the same time.

A least he died a free, exonerated man.

Anonymous said...

the ECPD are all crooks and liars and this fact is well known in and out of the eau claire court rooms and DA Richard White is the devil himself. If it is true that what comes around goes around I sure hope i am out of town when the storm hits inreturn for his criminal activity....He and his wife are EVIL as the day is long

Roy's pissed said...

Evan Zimmerman...A free and an innocent man.

Anonymous said...

Rest in Peace Evan. You are in a much better place than us. Just watched the A&E show and it was heartbreaking and riveting. God Bless Us All....Shawn

Roy's pissed said...

I need to know who killed Kathleen Thompson. Is this case being investigated?

Anonymous said...

I am from the Eau Claire area. I knew Kathleen Thompson through her stay at the Eau Claire County Jail, as I often gave the women rides to work. She hung with a rough crowd, including writing letters to other inmates housed in jails across the country. I was so relieved to hear that Evan had been given the justice he originally deserved. It is a shame he had to go through so much to get that.

Not only does the police department in Eau Claire lack, so does the court system. Not just criminal court, but family court too. I should know, my children were put back into the hands of a man that abused one of them because the judge did not want to deal with an interstate jurisdictional battle.

I am so sorry to hear of his passing. I am so sorry for what he had to go through. The DA is much more concerned with tallies behind his name than justice.

Joey said...

Just finished watching Evan's re-trial. Our so called JUSTICE system is corrupt. How can THESE people, these so called LAW ENFORCEMENT individuals get their positions. It's a crying shame that they are where they are. Evan you were brave to face what you did, but you knew you were innocent. Evan's defense team should be commended for a great job. R.I.P.

Truth in Justice Files said...

To respond to a concern expressed by numerous visitors, that is, what is being done to apprehend and prosecute Kathleen Thompson's killer, the answer is NOTHING. The Eau Claire Police announced immediately after Evan Zimmerman's acquittal that, as far as they are concerned, Evan did it and the case is closed.

Annie T. said...

While channel surfing I fell upon this compelling true story drama. I was riveted.
I believe there is nothing worse than being falsely accused and required to prove your innocence. Thank God for good people like Keith Belzer and Keith Findley and their team that were so dedicated to the truth. They were brilliant.
Evan fought a great fight and would not give up until he was vindicated. He said all he wanted was for his Children to be proud of him. In the bible it says, "A good name is more desirable than great riches." Prov. 22:1 Evan truly restored the family name and left a righteous heritage for his children and the Zimmerman name. There is alot to be said about a man's name. What do you think when you hear, "Bundy, Manson, Oswald"?
It is believed that when under stress one's immune system is lowered I believe his untimely death was brought on from all the stress that enabled cancer to grow in his body.
I would like to have met Evan and tell him how much I respect him and what he stood for.
Rest in Peace Evan Zimmerman, you died a hero and a free man.

Annie T.

Anonymous said...

im in new zealand now watching the zimmerman program and i had to jump on line to find out if he got off free as i could not wait for the movie to be over. and now i find out he has died of cancer. how sad.now im wishing i not looked ahead.

victoria said...

Watching this show makes you realize how vunerable we all are - I had one of those strange that could of been me moments - just wrong place wrong time and with a rubbish legal representative and bang your convicted. So much for the justice system.

Anonymous said...

I was a classmate of Ev's in high school and much later became one of his biggest supporters as a wrongly convicted man....truth is, this can happen to any one of you. Just live where some DA wants to close a case and win an election, befriend the wrong person or have an affliction such as alcoholism and YOU TOO could be in prison. As a psychiatric nurse I kept in touch with him while in prison and took a phone call from him that I knew was his good-bye call to me, thanking me for not turning my back on him. Kathy's REAL KILLER is out there today. A private investigator knows the name of the killer, but the DA ISN'T INTERESTED. I will NEVER serve on a jury again. DNA evidence was buried so they could prosecute Evan. So sad.....

slygirlz007 said...

i had to know what happened to this man after i watched the A&E show. He truly touched my heart. I have been in jail before and I was there for a short time but I was there for something I DID do... I couldnt imagine being there for something I didnt do like this man was. Its scary to know that they can lock someone up who is innocent and ruin their life. That man was in agony over this and I just wanted to reach out and hug him. I hope he had better days before he died. Rest in PEACE Evan!!!

Shannon Zimmerman said...

I've never done a search on my Dad's name. In just doing so, I happened upon this site. I would first like to thank those who have expressed such kind words for my Dad. He would be humbled. While his time was so very short after his exoneration and to be honest, you are never really free from something like this, he demonstrated something greater to us all.

He was not perfect, his life filled with the ups and downs that alcohol can bring. What took me a few years to fully appreciate was this... Having been wrongly convicted and seen first hand the inside of a maximum security prison and given an offer to plead to a lesser charge which guarantees freedom, he chose to risk it all for his name.

In this act, he saved our name as well. This is a selfless act for not only our family, but this act reinforced the truth that the system, while predominantly right, can be wrong and it is our obligation to constructively challenge it. While there will be those that throw stones, I understand this dubious and suspecting view. You weren't there, you do not understand.

If I may, I ask only that those who feel passionate about this topic seek ways to encourage legislation which supports those wrongfully convicted and later released. While he saved his and our name by official record, I can tell you he was never free. You need only be accused to forever wear the scarlet letter.

My sincere thanks again to each of you and I will tell you, while his time was short, he rebuilt bridges and mended fences as best he could.

Best to all of you.

Shannon Zimmerman

Anonymous said...

Hello

I'm from The Netherlands, and just yesterday I saw a documentary by Evan Zimmerman. To be honest, I could not help crying. I was so happy that he finally was declared not guilty. Thus a second chance to make something good in his life. After all those things he has done wrong by the alcohol addiction. So i was curious how he was doing, Because I saw that his health was getting worse. So i was realy shocked to read that he eventually was deceased from cancer. Not really got that second chance to make something beautiful out of it.To be honest I am pretty devastated.
I hope he has received many great times with his children and grandchildren. He has earned that.

Whit love from Melissa from The Netherlands ( holland )

Anonymous said...

This may be a little late (May 2012)compared to the other comments I have just read on this site, but I have only just watched the program here in South Africa. However my feelings of injustice towards Evan are as great as anyone elses. I also watched the program through tears and as much as I felt for Evan, my admiration for Keith Belzer and his team is beyond words. His feelings for Evan were palpable as I watched him deal with Evan. Well done to all concerned with Evan's trial. A big thank you is also given to Shannon Zimmerman for taking the time to place a comment on this site. I have a feeling that the impact this program had on the public will last for a long time.
RIP Evan