Milgaard Inquiry

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Similar transactions

Although this web site is devoted to the David Milgaard Inquiry, I am also interested in other trials that may relate to wrongful convictions. At the moment, I am carefully following the Michael Jackson case.

Last night, I was shocked to hear that prior allegations of abuse will be considered admissible in court. These are accusations, not convictions! But they fall under the category of "similar transactions" or "past bad acts." Many American States, including California, allows these previous allegations to be heard in trial. This seems highly unconstitutional to me.

In this particular instance, however, permitting such testimony may actually backfire on the prosecution. Some of the young witnesses who will come forward now will not be accusers; they will be on Jackson's side. For example, Macauley Culkin has publicly stated that he spent several years with Jackson, and nothing out of the ordinary ever occurred. Culken admitted to sleeping in Jackson's bedroom but he said "you've got to realize that Michael Jackson's bedroom is two stories high!"

We shall see where this new development will lead the circus of the Jackson trial.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Ron W.

Not much to report this week. Ron Wilson felt sick on Tuesday, so the proceedings ended early. Before he fell ill, Ron testified that he had felt manipulated by the police. He was also doing a lot of drugs at the time of the investigation, and was eager to drop acid again. Lastly, he feared that the cops were going to blame Gail Miller's murder on him. All of these variables resulted in Ron telling the police what he thought they wanted to hear.

Sigrid Macdonald.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Scott Peterson Revisited

The other day, I posted my thoughts about the Peterson trial and the death penalty sentence that Scott received. I said that his actions had been cold and callous. I have since reconsidered that statement.

I was watching Dennis Miller the other night. He had a panel of three or four people who were discussing the Peterson case. All of them, even the "left liberal" agreed that the death penalty was warranted in this instance. The liberal phrased that sentiment carefully; however, he did seem to agree with the rest of the group. Not one person questioned the actual verdict or Peterson's guilt or innocence.

The merciless death of an eight-month pregnant woman prompts a strong emotional response. No one could condone such a terrible act. We all want to find someone to blame and Scott's behavior was less than chivalrous. He had been cheating on his pregnant wife. That's not very admirable but it wasn't a crime the last time I checked.

I did some surfing on the Net late last night and came across some interesting sites that supported Scott. One of them is definitely worth reading. It's located at . The contributors there believe that a terrible miscarriage of justice has occurred in the Peterson case. They say that he was tried and executed by the media, and that there was absolutely no forensic evidence supporting the theory that Scott murdered his wife and child.

Prior to reading these Internet sites, I had been receiving most of my news about this case on CNN and MSNBC. All along, I had my doubts about Scott's involvement simply because the prosecution did not prove to me beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the barbaric murder. Why didn't he just divorce Laci? He didn't have to kill her if he had planned to take up with Amber Fry, who was practically a stranger to him, since he had only known her for a few weeks.

Neighbors claimed to have seen Laci walking her dog the morning of the day that she was reported missing. Scott subjected himself willingly to three polygraphs. He opened his house up to the police right away when his wife went missing. Of course, he tried to disguise himself and take off for Mexico, but who wouldn't want to run if they were suspected of such a heinous act?

The truth of the Peterson case is that I simply don't know if Scott killed his wife and unborn child. I did not see any incontrovertible evidence in the trial. I said that his act was horrific because I wanted to believe that he killed her. I wanted closure, and perhaps because it is a women's issue -- violence against women -- my emotions got the better of me. I wanted to be on Laci's side. But there's still a way to be on Laci's side without jumping the gun and assuming that Scott had to be guilty because there doesn't seem to be anyone else to suspect!

I apologize for my presumptions. And I'm damn thankful that I'm not sitting on the Michael Jackson jury! LOL. I would have NO idea how to vote in that case except that once again, I have not seen any concrete proof that Jackson molested that boy. Peterson was a cheat and Jackson is certainly eccentric, but that doesn't make them criminals.

Please jump into the discussion and add your views about the Peterson or Jackson case on my message board.

Sigrid Macdonald. Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 21, 2005

He needed to get stoned

On Monday, Ron Wilson told the Inquiry that he was dying to leave police custody because he needed to get stoned. CBC News reported that Ron took LSD every day for almost 20 years. Ironically, his memory of events is much clearer than that of Nicole John's.

Three months after Gail Miller's murder, the police picked up Ron in Regina, took him to Saskatoon, held him in jail and questioned him repeatedly. At that time, Wilson was taking LSD. Police drove him around the location where Gail's body had been discovered and showed him autopsy pictures of Gail and her blood-stained clothes. Ron sensed that the police wanted him to say that he and Milgaard had been separated for more than a few minutes in the alleyway; this would have given David time to have committed a murder.

Ron told the Inquiry that he had lied to law enforcement in order to get "all the heat" off him and get home as soon as possible. "I had to get stoned very quickly," he said. Naturally, Ron was also worried that the police would try to blame Gail Miller's death on him.

CBC News stated that by the time of David's trial, Ron had already served three terms in jail or prison. It wasn't until he stopped doing drugs in the 1980s that he realized how harmful his actions had been to David.

It's pretty sad when one of the most credible witnesses in an Inquiry was dropping acid every day for two decades! Really, how good can Ron Wilson's memory be? By definition, hallucinogens blur the line between reality and fantasy. Nicole, Ron, and Albert Cadrain were so impressionable when they were interrogated by the Saskatchewan police. They were young, they were scared and they were on drugs. No wonder they saved themselves by betraying David.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Milgaard's lawyers get serious

Earlier this week, Milgaard's lawyer, James Lockyer, interviewed Nichol John. He pointed out inconsistencies in her testimony. Lockyer emphasized the fact that after signing the statement that said that she saw David kill Gail Miller, which was written while Nichol was held against her will in police custody, Nicole never publicly repeated that assertion again.

For 11 weeks after the murder, Nichol maintained the same story that David and Ron repeated: their car had gotten stuck in an alleyway, and they were delayed on their visit to see Albert "Shorty" Cadrain. Neither Nichol nor Ron mentioned anything peculiar about David's behavior on that day until Nichol was taken into police custody almost three months later.

Hersh Wolch, another one of David's lawyers, claimed that the police concluded that Milgaard was the killer early on. Consequently, they tried to obtain statements from Milgaard's teenage friends to corroborate their theory. Both he and Lockyer stated that the police exerted pressure on Nichol John and Ron Wilson to implicate David in the crime.

David's second traveling companion, Ron Wilson, took the stand on Wednesday. Wilson was much more forthcoming and direct in his statements to the Inquiry than Nichol. He said that he just wanted the police to stop interrogating him, so he told them what he thought they wanted to hear back in 1969. Like Nichol, he had been held in police custody for one night -- she was held for two -- and he had been using LSD in the days prior to the interrogation. Thus, he was not feeling very well during the police interviews and was eager to leave the police station.

Wilson recanted his original testimony back in 1990. His retraction enabled Joyce Milgaard to obtain a new hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992.

Sigrid Macdonald. Copyright 2005. All rights reserved

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Scott Peterson sentenced to death

I'm just about to release my second book, which is a novel about a woman who goes missing in Ottawa. The book will be called D'Amour Road and I've established a new blog for it located at .

On that blog, you will find a short opinion piece that I have just written about Scott Peterson.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Dave 1992 Posted by Hello

Friday, March 11, 2005

Can you say FMS?

Those who know me understand that I would rather fly a plane into Baghdad than to get involved in the middle of the ugly false memory debate. I worked in this field for several years in the nineties and found it to be more explosive than any other issue that I have ever seen. Truly, I would prefer to stand outside of an abortion clinic and have people pelt me with stones than to delve into this murky, heated, and controversial area. But Nichol John's recent testimony necessitates a discussion of this topic.

Betty Ann Adam from The Star Phoenix reports that "Nichol John's mother told RCMP in 1993 that David Milgaard had choked Nichol with her jacket hood the morning of Gail Miller's murder and that their travelling companion, Ron Wilson, had slapped her face and told her to be quiet when John screamed, "He killed her. He killed her."

Nichol doesn't remember David choking her or telling her mother this story. Nichol does remember some new details about the event that occurred 35 long years ago and she maintains the idea that she saw the murder. She didn't say that she saw David murder anyone but she believes that she saw the murder itself because she has holes in her memory. Now, we all know that Nicole could not have seen David murder Gail since the DNA evidence proved that David did not kill Gail. Nichol could not have seen Larry Fisher kill Gail Miller because Nicole was with Ron and David in a car stuck in an alley. What Nicole may have seen is some very bad psychiatrists over the years!

It is always suspicious when someone claims not to have remembered anything whatsoever, or worse when they can remember all kinds of brand-new information 3 1/2 decades later. That sounds like Nichol has been rehearsing this story over and over -- rehashing it, analyzing it, "remembering" the incident under hypnotherapy, a notoriously unreliable means to access memory.

There were many victims that bitterly cold day Larry Fisher took Gail Miller's life. We can start with Gail Miller and her family; my heart goes out to them. Every time the Milgaards try to get justice, the Millers must suffer through this death again. The next obvious victim was David and now it has become apparent that Nichol John has never been right since the tragedy. She was abused by the police, coerced into making false statements against her friend, and has been reliving that sorrowful day ever since. She is confused about what happened and what she saw. How very sad.

Nicole John will return to the Inquiry on Monday. For her sake, let's hope that the rest of the interrogation is brief.

Sigrid Macdonald. Copyright 2005. All rights reserved

Who am I?

No, that is not an existential question that keeps me awake at night. It's a question that you might be asking yourself as you're reading this blog. Well, firstly, I'm a freelance writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. I'm in the process of completing my second book, which is what I should be working on right now instead of writing here in this blog! But I much prefer writing to editing because it's a more creative process.

Secondly, I am the former Co-coordinator of the Milgaard Support Group in Ottawa, which I ran with Joyce's advisement and the invaluable help of her niece, Ann Augstman.

Thirdly, I'm a friend of the Milgaards. I know Joyce extremely well, have met her wonderful husband, Lorne, and her intelligent daughter Maureen. If you want to see pictures of the Milgaards and me, click on my Milgaard Photo Album.

I have also met David and saw him on several occasions in the early nineties when he got out a prison. Understandably, he was having a difficult time back then, but one thing that always struck me about David was his lack of bitterness. Joyce is a devoutly religious person whereas Dave is more of a spiritual person. Both are strong, courageous, forgiving souls, but they're tough. They are tenacious and persistent, and are willing to follow this sad saga out to its final conclusion, so that there can be true justice for other people.

That explains my interest in the Milgaard case. What is your interest in wrongful convictions? Please take a moment to write in my guestbook. Or be bold and deflower the Milgaard Message board!

Sigrid Macdonald 2005.

Time for a good laugh

There's more than one route to a wrongful conviction and the Gillian Guess case made history for it's unique flaws. Click on the link above for a good laugh. Be patient. The picture takes time to load.

Sigrid Mac

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Going down Memory Lane

One of the unfortunate consequences of justice delayed is that many people die, move, disappear, retire, or lose their recollection of events 35 years after the fact. Nichol John, who was a key witness in the original Milgaard trial, now claims that she cannot remember what happened on the day that Gail Miller was killed.

Initially, Nichol did not say anything to the police that suggested David's involvement in the murder. However, two months after Nichol was first questioned, the police held the 16-year-old girl for two nights; she was also shown Gail Miller's bloody uniform, taken to the scene of the gruesome murder, and then back to a hotel where she was asked to provide a written statement about David Milgaard. At that point, she wrote that she had seen David kill Gail Miller. But by the time that the trial rolled around, Nichol more or less recanted her written statement by saying that she couldn't recall what had happened that day.

On Monday, March the 7th, Nichol John used the term, "I don't remember" almost 100 times in the Milgaard Inquiry, according to a CBC news report. That's her story and she's sticking to it.

Memory is an elusive beast. I can hardly remember what I did last Sunday and I'd be hard-pressed to provide details for anything that occurred to me 35 years ago. But if I saw someone stabbing and raping another person, I'm pretty sure that the only problem that I would have would be FORGETTING that morbid day, which would haunt me for the rest of my life. I may not remember every single detail of the tragedy, but I would certainly recall whether or not I had witnessed such an event.

Nichol John was not treated properly by the police at the time of the Miller investigation. She was a juvenile, she was held against her will, and she was not provided with a legal aid lawyer. If Nichol had been an upper middle-class suburban kid like me, she would have called her parents, and they would have had a top-notch attorney down to that jail in two seconds flat. Instead, she spent two nights locked up in an empty jail and became hysterical. A matron was called in to calm her down and the next day, the police took poor Nicole to the scene of the Miller murder.

It was reprehensible that the officers took Nichol John to the scene of the crime. Then they left her alone with Ron Wilson, David's other traveling companion, and the two decided to pin the crime on David. That's what Wilson said years later when he retracted his testimony. It's obvious that Nichol was coerced into telling law-enforcement exactly what they wanted to hear. She was young. She was terrified and she wanted to get the hell out of there! It's hard to blame a traumatized 16-year-old girl for her behavior at that time.

On Wednesday, the inquiry heard that Nichol traveled from her home in B.C. to visit doctors in Ottawa, Penetanguishene, and Philadelphia, at the request of justice investigators in 1991 and 1992. Tim Cook, reporter from Saskatoon, said that "Justice Department memos from the time show the experts explored reasons why she might have repressed her memories, including, guilt, embarrassment and post-traumatic stress disorder." That's interesting. Ordinarily, that statement would have prompted me to write a long diatribe regarding the validity of certain recovered memories EXCEPT that this particular debate is not academic.

I don't have to speculate as to whether or not Nichol repressed a memory of murder because DNA proved that David didn't kill Gail Miller - Larry Fisher did. Thus, Nichol had nothing to repress. She never saw Milgaard murder Miller because he didn't do it. Case closed! The reason that Nichol has to say that she can't remember events is because she can no longer claim to have seen a vicious act that never occurred. She may still be afraid of the police and confused about what happened on that dark day many years ago. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though Nichol John's testimony will be able to shed any light on her actual experience as the time of the Miller murder.

Sigrid Macdonald. Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Federal Justice Minister granted standing

Yesterday, the Regina Leader-Post reported that Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler was granted standing at the Milgaard Inquiry. This application was made after a number of witnesses referred to Eugene Williams. Williams had worked in the department that handled David's application to the Justice Minister for a review on his murder conviction.

The Justice Department applied to Justice Edward MacCallum for standing last week.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

More money from Saskatchewan

The CBC in Regina recently reported that the Saskatchewan government has allocated an extra $1.4 million for the Milgaard Inquiry, and for another miscarriage of justice -- the Martensville daycare sex scandal. $700,000 of this money will go to the Milgaard investigation. To read the whole article, please click on the link below.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cool Quasi-Related Stuff to Read

Since the Inquiry is on hiatus at the moment, I thought that I would expand this discussion to include the prison system in general. I would like to recommend readings by two well-known media men in Ottawa with very different opinions on penal reform.

Firstly, there is Dan Gardner, senior writer for the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. If you haven't discovered Gardner yet, I suggest that you RUN not walk to the Google search engine, and find everything that you can by this brilliant and controversial reporter. Or if you're lazy, like me, just click on some of the links below to access Dan's articles.

Gardner has written extensively, comparing the American and Canadian penitentiaries. He believes that tougher penalties for criminals simply result in tougher convicts, who are more apt to create problems both within the prison system and upon release. He thinks that Canada has a more compassionate prison system than the United States, but that both could improve by giving prisoners more responsibility, and treating them with basic human decency and respect.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Michael Harris, best-selling author, columnist for the Ottawa Sun, and talk show host on CFRA radio. Michael is equally concerned with the justice system but his empathy lies more with victims of crime than with perpetrators. (On a note related to wrongful convictions, Michael is the author of Justice Denied: The Law versus Donald Marshall. Altogether, Harris' books have been responsible for instigating four separate royal commissions of inquiry!)

According to Harris, inmates have taken over the prisons, and top-level bureaucrats and guards are too afraid or corrupt to speak out about it. He depicts scenarios that sound much like the TV show OZ where prisons are subdivided into various groups composed of different gangs. Violence is common and drug abuse is rife.

That's not the way Gardner sees it. In a 2002 article entitled Inside the supermax Pelican Bay, Gardner declares, "There is serious violence in Canadian prisons, just as there is in prisons everywhere. But relative to other prison systems, Ingstrup (former Corrections Commissioner) says, the violence here is 'very, very low.' It also seems to be declining. During the past decade, there has been a gradual, modest drop in what the Correctional Service of Canada calls 'major security incidents,' including major assaults, fights, escapes and other disruptions."

So which is it? How are we lay people to know who to believe? The Milgaard Inquiry is all about the flaws in the system that doomed an innocent person to spending 23 years in jail. Yet problems within the justice system go way beyond convicting innocent people. There is a malignancy at the core of our prisons in Canada, and the situation is even worse in the United States.

Giving people stricter sentences and incarcerating more of them is not the answer. Gardner notes that many prisoners are illiterate and drug addicted, and come from backgrounds of poverty or abuse. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that race is also a big factor in incarceration; a disproportionate number of blacks are imprisoned in the US. That role is played out by Native Americans in Canada. Gardner advocates a humane and rehabilitative model, much like the ones that are employed in Europe. He is an outspoken supporter of legalization of marijuana because many people in the United States, who are involved in this "victimless" crime, get locked up in prison. They go in at an early age and become demoralized when they receive life sentences. If they're already in for jail, what's preventing them from committing another crime? The only thing that drug dealers learn inside is how to become better criminals, and keeping drugs and prostitution illegal enables organized crime to flourish.

Those are the opinions of two well-reputed investigative journalists in Ottawa, as I understand them. Whose ideas do you support? Jump on the Milgaard Message Board and let us know. Or make your own comments at the end of this blog. I'm looking forward to hearing them.

Sigrid Mac

- "Inside the supermax Pelican Bay" By Dan Gardner, Ottawa Citizen. April 28, 2002 Sunday Final Edition

Displayed on Citizens Against Private Prisons at

- "Losing the War Against Drugs" By Dan Gardner, Ottawa Citizen. September 5, 2000

Displayed on The Media Awareness Project


-- Review of Michael Harris' book by Joel Barnes

-- Read Michael's weekly column in the Ottawa Sun

Sigrid Macdonald

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