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.