Friday, April 29, 2005
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Time for Technical Support
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Larry Fisher's rape victims
Oddly enough, Joyce Milgaard's computer broke down at the same time as my own, and I rely on her to send me weekly updates. So I have a legitimate excuse for not posting for a while.
Last week, several women who were raped by Larry Fisher testified at the Milgaard Inquiry. Two of them said that they were never told by the police that Fisher had been arrested for assaulting them; instead, they heard this news from Joyce Milgaard decades later.
Reporting from Saskatoon, Tim Cook described an unnerving tale about a woman who was groped on the same morning that Gail Miller was killed. She realized that Fisher was her assailant when she saw his picture in the newspaper in 1991. The woman -- who cannot be named due to a publication ban -- then contacted Milgaard's lawyers.
It is interesting that the woman's police report was filed in the Miller file rather than in a separate file of its own. What is in question here is whether or not the police deliberately withheld information about Larry Fisher's arrest and his modus operandi to the public, Milgaard's defense attorney, and to the victims themselves, so as not to have to reopen the Milgaard case. (Fisher was convicted of multiple sexual assaults in 1971 whereas David had been convicted in 1970.)
One more of Fisher's survivors is scheduled to speak on Wednesday. Then the Inquiry will adjourn for the month of May. When they return, police officers who investigated David's case will testify. The role of Justice Edward MacCallum, the inquiry judge, is not to "assign blame," according to Cook, but rather to make recommendations to prevent further miscarriages of justice from happening in the future.
Sigrid Macdonald. Copyright 2005. All Rights Reserved.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Possible Motives to Lie
"The jury is still out" National Post Mon 11 Apr 2005 Page: A16 Section: Editorials Byline: David Asper Column: David Asper Source: National Post
Jean Brault's testimony to the Gomery inquiry sure hit with a thud, didn't it? If his allegations are true, there is no question we are witnessing one of the great scandals in our nation's history.
But before we rush to judgment, I think a cautionary note is in order.
I recall meeting Joyce Milgaard in 1986, when she provided me with the trial transcripts and a good deal of associated material in connection with her son's 1970 murder conviction. She claimed David was innocent, and urged me to do something about it.
In order for Mrs. Milgaard to have been correct, virtually every material witness in her son's trial had to have lied. I wondered how that could be possible. Everyone?
As we now know, that is in fact what happened, and David Milgaard was indeed innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. But at the time of his trial, it sure looked like he had done it, and it sure sounded like the witnesses were telling the truth. Certainly, that was the message we got from the media.
All of which is to say that while the Gomery evidence looks damning, it is not necessarily the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
People have a variety of motives to lie. Maybe Jean Brault is telling the truth. Then again, maybe he is getting revenge against the Liberals by exaggerating what happened. Or maybe he is interpreting people's words in a way that was not intended.
Does he have a deal with authorities that will allow him to receive favourable consideration in his criminal proceedings if he provides information about others? In other words, does he have a motive to embellish or lie?
Moreover, if he is found guilty of criminal fraud, does that not, by definition, make him a potentially unreliable witness? Can the same be said of the other rats as they jump from the ship?
It is going to take some time to sort out all of the testimony and link it, where possible, with independent corroborative facts. Forensic accountants, auditors, lawyers and police are all neck deep in that process and one hopes it will lead to a clean package that describes what really happened. If and when that happens, Canadians will have a result on which they can rely.
Until then, I cannot help but cringe as so many observers uncritically accept the most lurid details of Mr. Brault's testimony. Unproven snippets of information are being magnified beyond their significance. Worse, denials can get lost in the clamour of the moment. And people who might not actually be involved get an undeserved tarring merely because they were mentioned in passing by Mr. Brault or another Gomery witness.
The melodrama of Question Period is only exacerbating all of this: Many opposition MPs want an election, which would have Canadians essentially put the government on trial on the integrity issue without even having all the evidence at hand. To hell with the evidence, let's throw the bums out!
It all makes for interesting political theatre -- but it's not very edifying. Remember that the mandate of the Gomery inquiry also includes providing recommendations as to how this might all be prevented in the future. Yet the pundits don't seem interested in talking about that. "Throw the bums out" is a campaign slogan, not public policy; and the latter is what is really needed here.
At the time the Prime Minister created the Gomery inquiry, he knew a feeding frenzy like this might result. And so you have to give him a good deal of credit for ignoring the politics and doing the right thing. The least Canadians owe in return is a little patience. When the whole story is known, we can properly retire to consider our verdict.
Edition: National Story Type: Business; Column Length: 634 words PRODUCTION FIELDSNDATE: 20050411 POSITION: 5
Reprinted with permission of David Asper, April 13, 2005.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Wilson still on the stand
Firstly, I would like to announce the publication of my new book called D'Amour Road. It's all about a woman who goes missing in Ottawa and it combines several themes, including violence against women, the ever present possibility of wrongful convictions, and the sanctity of female friendships. The story is ENTIRELY fictional. However, it is based loosely around the tragic death and disappearance of Louise Ellis, who was a member of my Milgaard group. If you would like to read more about D'Amour Road, please visit my other blog at www.damourroad.blogspot.com .
Now, back to business. Ron Wilson continued to testify this week. Milgaard's lawyer, Hersh Wolch, queried Wilson about the whereabouts of the car that the threesome had been driving on the bitterly cold morning when Gail Miller was killed. After he'd been pressured by the police, Ron said that the car had been stuck for almost 15 minutes on the ice. This information was critical because it gave David a period of time in order for him to have left Ron and Nichol to have committed the crime (It is arguable that 15 minutes would have been enough time, particularly given the fact that it was 40 below zero that day, so that there was no way that a man could have raped a woman outdoors. David would have had to leave the car, find Gail Miller, drag her into a sheltered area, sexually assault her, and viciously stab her upteen times. Then he would have had to compose himself and find his way back to the car.)
Wolch argued that in order for the stuck car story to be accurate, the vehicle would have been stuck in the middle of 20th Street at Avenue O or Avenue N during morning rush hour. But according to CBC News, the police advertised asking anyone who had seen the car at that location to contact them. Nobody did.
Surprising news from the Inquiry revealed that a large amount of time was spent investigating Wilson's bank account to see if he had received any large sums of cash, and a federal prosecutor wrote a memo implying that Milgaard supporters may have pressured Ron Wilson to retract his testimony. There was no evidence for this. At one point, the RCMP had a theory that Wilson may have been the killer. Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean that they're not out to get you! No wonder Wilson was scared.
The RCMP also investigated Joyce Milgaard's activities and motives. This is really laughable to anyone who knows Joyce as well as I do. She is a confirmed Christian Scientist who would be no more likely to threaten and bribe someone than she would be to shoot him! However, back in 1981, Joyce offered a $10,000 reward for any information having to do with the arrest and conviction of her son. Apparently, the constables needed to be absolutely certain that Mrs. Milgaard was not trying to tamper with the investigation. Sorry, guys but LMAO!
Surely, the precious time that was spent looking into the innocuous actions of a distraught mother could have been put to better use. For example, someone could have been entering data about David into a central database. Yes, I know that much of the information that was collected about David over the years occurred before the big technology revolution. But the article that Joyce sent me this morning by Betty Ann Adams of the Star Phoenix said that there are now over 300,000 pages of info related to Milgaard that need to be put into a central file. Adams said that one complete Milgaard file would require 500 binders! Providing copies to the 12 parties that have been granted standing in the Inquiry, and to the Commissioner and the Commissioners Counsel would warrant 7000 binders!
I guess the Inquiry folks aren't going to have much spare time at night to kick back and watch CSI or Canadian Idol. Please, is there anyone who has the time to actually read that file?? The abundance of material notwithstanding, all of the pertinent information about David Milgaard, Canada's worst victim of a wrongful conviction, should definitely be entered into a central computer database.
Sigrid Macdonald. Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
The Inquiry Resumes
The Milgaard Inquiry resumed this week; it had been on hold after Ron Wilson became ill last week. Wilson was back on the stand yesterday and today. He said that he had a much easier time convincing the police to believe him when he tried to implicate Milgaard in the murder than he did when he retracted his statements in 1990.
According to Betty Ann Adam of the Star Phoenix, Ron did not claim to be bullied by the police as a 17-year-old. On the contrary, he remembered the police as being "friendly". However, they supplied him with numerous details about Gail Miller's murder that he would not have otherwise known and "suggested repeatedly that his copious drug use must have caused him to blank out memories about the day of the murder".
Wilson was a key witness in the original Milgaard trial where he stated that David had confessed to murdering Gail Miller. His recantation opened the door for the Milgaards and their lawyers to send David's case to the federal Justice Department for review, and ultimately on to the Supreme Court.