Joyce Milgaard was under fire this week when David's former defense lawyer, Tony Merchant, alleged that Joyce had been overly aggressive and may have intimidated witnesses at times. Merchant, who represented David in the 1980s, conceded that without Joyce's relentless perseverance, David may never have been released from prison.
It's hard to define which behaviors are assertive and appropriate and which are irritating or abrasive. Merchant was retained right after David escaped from the penitentiary in 1980 and was living a fugitive existence in Toronto. After several weeks of freedom, Dave was caught and shot in the back by the police. He still has a physical injury from that episode.
Moreover, breaking out of prison seriously decreased David's chances with the parole board -- another group of people who didn't sound too delighted with Joyce Milgaard at the inquiry this week because they were reported as saying that she seemed to have a different agenda for her son at the parole board meetings than he did.
Maybe Joyce was aggressive during certain parts of her struggle. I remember reading in When Justice Fails
by Karp and Rosner that at one point Joyce offered to babysit for David Asper's newborn child, so that he could get back on the Milgaard case ASAP!
Sometimes, determination and persistence can grate on other people. But when the stakes are life-and-death or lifetime imprisonment, which was tantamount to a living death in Dave's case, those actions are understandable and justifiable. In fact, it's unfortunate that anyone at the inquiry feels entitled to attack Joyce in this manner. It's stressful enough for her to give up all of her time to follow the inquiry events month after month, and to travel back-and-forth to Saskatchewan to relive this nightmare.
One of the big issues that is looming over our heads right now is whether or not David will have to testify at the inquiry and how that may damage his mental health. (He is expecting his first child in January and all of his energy is being devoted to that upcoming event.) No one has mentioned Joyce's mental health or her age -- although she is a Christian Scientist who is born new everyday, she is no longer the young mother who had boundless energy to devote to her oldest son. I'm sure that she will be tremendously relieved when the ordeal of the inquiry is over.