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Larry Mansch, left, receives the 2019 FDOM/MTACDL Lawyer of the Year Award from Colin Stephens.

06 November, 2023
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2019 Timer Moses Co-Award - Larry Mansch

06 November, 2023

Larry graduated from the Creighton University School of Law in 1980. For 13 years he worked as a Senior Attorney for the Office of the Missoula County Public Defender, and then spent five years in private practice, focusing on criminal defense. He served as a Judge Advocate General in the Montana Army National Guard for 20 years, retiring as a Lt. Colonel. He received his Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Montana in 2006, and for 10 years has worked as a teacher for Missoula Catholic Schools. He was the Legal Director of MTIP until 2019. 

Throughout Larry’s career, he has been dedicated to ensuring that justice is not a luxury, but a right for all.  In difficult case after difficult case, Larry has accomplished just that for a wide range of clients. Perhaps nothing demonstrates that fact as sincerely and viscerally as the following letter from Dave Wilkes, who had been wrongly convicted of shaking his baby son to death:

My name is Robert James Wilkes ... my friends and family all know me by Dave...

iWhen I went to prison in 2010 for the death of my son Gabriel in 2008, I had lost all hope. All I had at that point was a nightmare of memories and the upcoming legal battle. Memories of my son's last days. His mother's screams as he passed away, and my feelings of helplessness and despair. A feeling of fear and the unknown of what was to come.

iChants of "babykiller" and "babyshaker" echoing from the jail and prison cells...

iI had lost hope in not just the system, but in people period... How could this happen, in this day and age with what is supposed to be a fair and just system that worked?

iAbout 2 years after going inside, I met Larry. I met Toby about 2 years later. Larry with his imposing figure and no-nonsense approach and Toby with his quiet stature and "loud" voice in the courtroom via his legal arguments, both of these gentlemen applied their vast legal knowledge and skills to see that I was afforded the right to get my Post-Conviction heard and not just passed off or denied. With Larry and Toby's help, I was not only able to get my case remanded back to Missoula County via the Montana Supreme Court in 2015, but in 2018, they again got me a big win when a judge overturned my case on a huge number of points of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, and were also able to show, via a number of reputable experts, that not only was my son Gabriel NOT murdered, but had passed away due to a rare medical condition.

Now, not to get off point, but, Larry, Toby, and I all share a love for music as well ... we had many deep discussions about who the best band was... Larry said the Beatles and of course Toby said Guns N Roses ... reason I bring this up is because during one of our discussions while I was still inside, I mentioned to them a favorite song of mine called "On the Backs of Angels" by Dream Theater ... I had told Larry and Toby, because of their help and numerous other individuals at Montana Innocence Project, that " I felt uplifted with their efforts and their due diligence and I truly was on the backs of angels"....

Had it not been for all of the individuals who so grossly mishandled my case or the doctors who ineptly misdiagnosed my son's illness and subsequent death, I would never have met Larry or Toby, or learned any of the reasons behind my son's passing. Larry, Toby and other individuals with the Montana Innocence Project at the time, contacted several experts in the medical field to show that an injustice had been done and time and again those experts said no homicide had occurred, but my son had been sick prior to his being hospitalized...

Larry and Toby both worked diligently on my case to not only win me my freedom but also re-unite me with my family. There is no greater feeling when you go from abandonment to HOPE!! 

I was in a very dark place and after meeting and working with these two the last 8 plus years, I DEFINITELY have faith in not only the justice system again but also in humanity. A system I thought was broken but Larry and Toby have shown me that it just takes the necessary work, hard work to make change happen. A little bit of effort, or in their case, A LOT of effort. But, they STOOD when NO ONE ELSE would... They BELIEVED in me and my innocence when NO ONE ELSE WOULD... I learned how to trust again and thanks to these two, they showed me respect and courage in the face of fire...

They restored some semblance of peace to my family with not only the TRUE words they spoke, but with TRUER actions... They were always humble, unpretentious and gallant in their efforts and accomplishments of my case.

So, I say in closing, I am truly honored to have been asked to write this in regards to my friends, Larry and Toby, who with their extraordinary abilities as defense attorneys, got me my hard won freedom, who gave me my life back, gave me back to my family, and gave me a new purpose.... to see any injustice for NOT what it is.... but for What it may NOT be....

I am HONORED to call you both my family, and a big CONGRATULATIONS TO BOTH OF YOU, Larry Mansch and Toby Cook...

I am ETERNALLY grateful to you both as is my family.

With the Utmost Respect,

Robert James Wilkes "Dave" Exoneree #7 1-29-2020

Please also see Toby Cook’s award presentation, written by Larry Mansch.