Milgaard Inquiry

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Milgaard Inquiry Begins!

At the tender age of 16, David Milgaard was accused of raping and murdering Gail Miller, a young nursing aide in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He spent 23 years behind bars while his mother, Joyce, launched a one-woman campaign to free her son. Nicknamed by Homemaker Magazine as the "Gumshoe Mom," Joyce took David's case right up to the Supreme Court, along with lawyers Hersh Wolch and David Asper.

In 1992, the court ruled that keeping Milgaard in prison would constitute a miscarriage of justice, given the fact that the original witnesses, who had spoken up against Milgaard, had retracted their testimonies. They were frightened and confused teenagers at the time of Gail Miller's death, and had been coerced by the police into fingering Milgaard. Although a serial rapist by the name of Larry Fisher had been operating in Saskatoon, and even lived in the very building that Milgaard had visited on the day of the rape, the police insisted on focusing their attention on David.

After the historic Supreme Court decision that freed Milgaard in 1992, he was left in a state of legal limbo. His lawyers, his family and his supporters continued their battle to exonerate him. It took five years for DNA to prove conclusively that Milgaard had not killed Gail Miller and two more years for David and his family to receive a $10 million compensation package, and an apology from the government of Saskatchewan.

During this time, I took on the task of co-coordinator of the David Milgaard Support Group in Ottawa. I ran the group with Joyce's advisement, and with the invaluable help of her niece, co-coordinator, Ann Augstman. The Milgaard meetings were small but the supporters were ardent.

Now, the public inquiry into what went so terribly wrong in the David Milgaard case is underway. I will be posting articles on a regular basis about the case to keep everyone updated. David's story is one of the worst cases of injustice in Canadian history. Let us all hope this lengthy inquiry will uncover the reasons why David was put behind bars, and make strong recommendations to prevent this from happening to other innocent people.

Sigrid Macdonald

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