Milgaard Inquiry

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Pathologist under fire -- Mullins -Johnson

Dr. Charles Smith, the pathologist who had concluded that Mullins Johnson's niece had been sexually molested and murdered, is being sued by a woman who claims that she was wrongly jailed for killing her daughter. Recent evidence indicates that the daughter was killed by a pitbull; Smith had determined that the daughter died of stab wounds.

His work is currently being investigated in more than 40 different cases where Smith had either testified in court or conducted an autopsy, according to CBC news. Meanwhile, he's still practicing and has just left Toronto Sick Kids Hospital to work in Saskatoon.

If we are in fact dedicated to preventing wrongful convictions, then we must reluctantly concede that Charles Smith has the right to continue to work until he is proven guilty of these allegations beyond a shadow of a doubt. Having said that, I'm glad that I don't need any surgical pathology work done at the moment at the Saskatoon City Hospital!

Sigrid Mac

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Alberta Justice

We Canadians talk a lot about Texas Justice, which gives us the opportunity to feel superior to the Americans, but our own justice system is in pretty sad shape. Not only do we have wrongful convictions but oftentimes, guilty parties go free. (Actually, most wrongful convictions also allow guilty parties to roam the streets because they have arrested the wrong person, except in the case of someone like Mullins-Johnson where no crime was ever committed.)

Holly Desimone knows all too well about the failings of the Alberta justice system. Back in 1990, when she was 29 years old, Holly went over to her friend's house one night for dinner. She met her friend's brother, Ali Rasai, a seemingly nice guy who was a newcomer to Canada. She thought nothing about inviting him back to her apartment since she had no idea that he had fled a rape charge in Australia. Rasai sexually assaulted Holly, who feared for her life.

It took her more than three months to report the rape due to the emotional trauma and fear of not being believed. When she finally came forth, she discovered that Rasai had been charged with sexually molesting two other women in Alberta -- one in Red Deer and one in Edmonton. After he was charged, he was granted bail and his victims were never notified.

Worse, Rossi skipped town. He left the country and it took years for him to be located. Holly launched a tireless campaign to find him, similar in many respects to Joyce Milgaard's one-woman "gumshoe" campaign for justice. She worked in tandem with Rasai's other rape victim from Red Deer, and made the painful decision to go public in order to find this man. Most rape victims are covered by rape shield laws and do not have to disclose their identity to the press but Holly decided to give up her anonymity.

She appeared on America's Most Wanted and has been written up in Reader's Digest. After struggling for years, finding dead ends and dealing with bureaucratic red tape that allowed Rossi to stay in countries like Norway, Holly finally found some measure of justice when Rasai was apprehended. Nearly six years after the rape, he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. (He was actually giving 10 years but was credited for time already served.) That's a relatively long sentence for a rapist, but what will happen when he's released again? He's obviously a dangerous offender.

You can read more about Holly's courageous story on my link entitled Holly's Fight for Justice. She has a large web site with extensive links and resources for crime victims. Check it out! Then come back here and post your comments. I welcome discussion and discourse.

Sigrid Mac
Crossposted to D'Amour Road and my Milgaard Inquiry blog

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Larry Fisher - wrongly convicted?

Right. And George Bush did a stellar job on Katrina.

Beresh looks like a fool to question DNA and insist that the eyewitness testimony of one 15 year-old girl, who was held in the police station against her will overnight without counsel, was more reliable than modern science. I didn't think Fisher would be too helpful on the stand but I didn't expect him to try to gather sympathy for his plight.

Sorry, pal. Your long history of vicious rapes with a similar MO and your blood and semen at the crime scene said it all for me.

S Mac

Monday, September 19, 2005

He doth protest too much

No big surprises re Larry Fisher's testimony today at the hearing. He denied any involvement in the Miller murder, which is consistent with all of his previous declarations, despite the fact that according to Tim Cook of the Canadian Press, at Fisher's trial it was reported that the odds were "950 trillion to one that the semen found on Miller's body did NOT belong to him." Hmm. How does he explain that one? Must be like O.J. Framed by the darned police in their zest to release Milgaard after 23 years behind bars.

Fisher is the 91st witness to appear before the Inquiry, which has cost $8 million so far. Judge MacCallum expects to hear from approximately 200 witnesses including Milgaard himself, probably sometime in January. I don't think that Dave is looking forward to having to relive this experience on the stand. The ordeal also seems to be taking quite a toll on Joyce.

Fisher will continue to enlighten us with his commentaries for several more days.

Sigrid Mac

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Betty Ann Adam Rocks!

I'm very excited!

I wrote to Betty Ann Adam of the Star Phoenix last week to tell her about my novel, D'Amour Road. D'Amour Road is loosely based around the disappearance and tragic death of Louise Ellis, a member of my Milgaard group. As many of you know, I was the former co-coordinator of the David Milgaard Support Group here in Ottawa.

Louise was a freelance journalist who was interested in writing a book about David. Consequently, she attended the Supreme Court hearings to get more information about his case. It was there that she had her fateful meeting with Brett Morgan, a jailhouse informant, who testified that Larry Fisher had confided in him when they were cellmates; apparently, Fisher had boasted that he had once killed someone but someone else was doing the time for it.

Louise admired Brett for coming forth with this information, which was dangerous for a convict. No one likes a tattletale and I'm sure that it didn't make him very popular in prison. She struck up a correspondence with Morgan and traveled back and forth to see him at the penitentiary. Louise took money out of her own pocket to hire lawyers to get Morgan out of prison early. He was in for manslaughter -- should have been murder -- because he had killed a woman by the name of Gwen Telford in Edmonton (In many newspaper articles, Telford is only referred to as "a prostitute" which really pisses me off!)

Louise and Brett fell in love. She took him into her house when he got out of jail. He got a job and about nine months later, Louise went missing. I was part of the search team that went looking for her. Since Brett was actively involved in the search and vehemently proclaiming his innocence, it was awkward for all of us who were looking for her. I met with Brett once in person and spoke to him several times on the phone. If I hadn't known that he had killed one women and that his girlfriend was missing, I would've thought that he was charming. He was earnest and personable and appeared to be perfectly normal.

Brett led a private detective directly to Louise's body about three months into the investigation. He was charged with first-degree murder and was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence. He died of Hep C in prison; can't say that I shed too many tears over that.

I was profoundly affected by the death of my cohort, Louise Ellis. My novel is not biographical. I did not trace the exact relationship of Brett and Louise; instead, I asked myself what the situation would have been like if Louise and I had been best friends. How would I have felt then? What would I have done differently? How hard is it to balance the presumption of innocence with the realization that I don't want to be an idiot and overlook the fact that male partners are often involved in female disappearances; ex cons are even more suspicious!

In my book, I tried to make the male character a cross between Scott Peterson and Brett Morgan. The book is told mainly from the perspective of the best friend of the woman who disappears. It takes place in Ottawa and I examine issues like the presumption of innocence, the ever present possibility of a wrongful conviction, violence against women, midlife issues and unrequited love. You can read a preview of the book at
or find it directly on Amazon (Just ignore what they say about it taking three to four weeks to ship. That's crazy! It would never take that long.)

Keep your fingers crossed that Betty Ann Adam likes it and that the Star Phoenix will review it. She has been writing about Milgaard for years and was not aware of this spinoff from the case. In fact, she told me that the inquiry only heard about Morgan on Monday when one of the ex-cops suggested that it would be nice to have Morgan testify (from Six Feet Under?)

David Asper also has a copy of my book and is trying to get it reviewed for me in between his scrapes with the Blue Bombers. LOL.

Sigrid Mac


Larry Fisher will be taking the stand. That should be really interesting, although he'll probably just deny involvement in the Miller case since that's been his position thus far. Fisher pled guilty to four sexual assaults in Saskatoon and was permitted to have his sentence for those offenses run concurrently with the 13 year term that he was already serving for his rapes in Winnipeg. His MO in the aforementioned attacks was quite similar to the MO that he used with Gail Miller, which should've been a tipoff to the police at the time.

Those of us in AIDWYC have always questioned why Fisher was tried in Regina as opposed to Saskatoon; that certainly makes us suspicious about the role of the justice officials in withholding information about Fisher that was pertinent to Gail Miller's murder and Milgaard's subsequent incarceration.

We'll see how this story unfolds.

Sigrid Mac

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bail for Mullins-Johnson

I was listening to Lloyd Robertson the other night when he was talking about the case for William Mullins-Johnson. Mullins-Johnson was convicted of strangling and raping his four-year-old niece back in 1993. He always maintained his innocence but the pathology reports at the time indicated that the little girl had been murdered and had most likely endured chronic sexual molestation during her short lifetime.

After exhausting his appeals, Mullins-Johnson approached AIDWYC. James Lockyer was on TV speaking up on his behalf.

Here's a link to an article by an MPP in Sault Ste. Marie where the incident occurred. Orazietti poses the question: Was Mullins-Johnson wrongly convicted? Lloyd Robertson sounded more convinced based on new evidence from a pathologist in Toronto who declared that not only was there no evidence whatsoever of chronic sexual abuse, but also there was no indication of murder! Dr. Michael Pollanen, Medical Director of the Toronto Forensic Pathology Unit, said that it was entirely possible that the little girl died of natural causes.

Mullins-Johnson is a lucky man based on this new report; however, now he has to wait for the Justice Minister to review his case and that could take months. He has applied for bail and I say -- grant him that much. If the most recent pathological report is compelling, that man should not spend one more unnecessary day behind bars.

Sigrid Mac

P.S. Bail was granted on September 22nd. Right on.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

At long last -- an apology!

Yesterday, CBC News reported that Elmer Ullrich, a former Saskatoon police officer, apologized for any actions that he may have taken that resulted in David Milgaard's wrongful conviction. In 1969, Ullrich wrote a summary outlining the evidence against Milgaard in the savage slaying of Gail Miller..

Ullrich's health prevented him from attending the inquiry but he sent a note, which was read by lawyer, Doug Hodson.

"I am sincerely sorry and wish to herewith express and extend my apologies to the Milgaards and in particular to David Milgaard for the mistake we made," Ullrich wrote, according to the CBC.

"I can only say I did not intend to find him guilty when he was innocent. At the time I thought we, the police, were right in charging him. Obviously we were not."

Joyce Milgaard cried again -- this time for joy.

"You finally hear someone say they're sorry. I'm so grateful," she said later.

Ullrich's statement was in stark contrast to that of Eddy Karst, who would not apologize last month.

"I certainly feel sorry for David Milgaard, or anyone else that has been wrongly incarcerated, or for Mrs. Milgaard having been put through this... However, I did nothing wrong in my opinion and I don't feel I have anything to apologize for," Karst was quoted as saying in yesterday's CBC News article.

Sigrid Mac

Monday, September 12, 2005

Justice for Jeff Berg

Please visit my newest link entitled Justice for Jeff. It's all about the brutal murder of Jeff Berg by the Vancouver police in October of 2000. Apparently, Jeff was suspected of being involved in a marijuana "grow-op." Although witnesses and a videotape indicated that Jeff was cooperative with the police, one constable in particular beat Jeff senseless and left him bleeding and unconscious. Later on, he was revived by paramedics but he died two days later after he was taken off life-support.

His sister, Julie, has been fighting tirelessly on Jeff's behalf ever since. The Vancouver Police Department had an internal review which declared that their behavior had been appropriate because they claimed that Jeff had been violent. Julie Berg believes that the VPD should not be allowed to investigate itself. There is an inherent bias and lack of objectivity in an internal review. She is asking the public to support an independent judicial inquiry into the tragic death of her brother.

Julie also needs money for legal fees. Please visit her web site to sign the petition or make donations (

The similarity between Jeff's case and David's is that law enforcement should not be allowed to monitor itself because it is very bad at admitting its own mistakes. As AIDWYC has continually advocated for an independent judicial board that will allow the wrongly convicted an outside appeal, so should the Berg family be permitted an outside investigation into the highly suspicious and inhumane behavior of the Vancouver Police Department.

Sigrid Macdonald. To quote Lawrence Lessig, "Some Rights Reserved." (Read FREE CULTURE and the discussion of copyright laws.) I.E. Anything on my blog may be reproduced elsewhere if you are kind enough to attribute the source.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Letter to Eddy Karst

Bent Romnes of London, Ontario posted this letter on my message board several days ago. I didn't see it right away because I have changed e-mail addresses and no longer receive notifications when people post on that board.

Bent is a longtime activist on behalf of the wrongly convicted. He has been an advocate for Steven Truscott for more than 30 years and has done considerable research on Truscott's case. This letter to Eddy Karst expresses the frustration and disbelief that many of us share that Karst cannot and will not apologize or admit any wrongdoing after all these years.

Sigrid Mac. September 7, 2005


I am so angry. When I get like that, I am at a loss for words. But at least I have to try to put in my 2 cents worth here.Karst et al put David through living hell for 23 years. Do you hear that, Canadian Government? TWENTY-THREE YEARS!! It is all said and done and the murderer has been caught with help from DNA. The inquiry, costing millions of the tax payers' money, is in full swing and lining up one wrong-doer after the other, putting them to task for the way they participated in the screw-up that landed Milgaard in jail. There stands Karst and every one of you who participated in this travesty of justice, with egg on your faces. You all know you did wrong, you sorry excuses for investigators, MP's or whatever job applies to you.Still, you have the nerve to stand up in front of Canada and say you have nothing to apologize to Mrs. Milgaard for???When you pull a stunt like that, you not only hurt Joyce. You hurt every justice-minded individual in Canada and beyond! Do you guys (and gals) not realize that these are the same Canadians you will be coming to for their vote in the next election?

Now, a few words to Karst who refused to apologize, and to the others who might be thinking of pulling the same stunt:Joyce Milgaard fought for her son for 23 years. A mother who knew better than anybody else that her son was and is innocent. A woman who in my mind portrays the very picture of Justice. Here she was; petitioning this or that MP or threatening to camp out on the front lawn of the Prime Minister, to make some of you deadbeats perk up and listen.Mrs. Milgaard is one of Canada's most highly respected women. You, sir, along with your cohorts in injustice, make a 180 turn.

Walk back to Mrs. Milgaard this very instant. If you have any self-respect, and respect for Justice, you will fall to your knees and apologize like a good boy.We will not stand for this garbage any longer.I hope this message gets to the inquiry somehow, along with the 1000's of others responding to that article.

Bent Romnes

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