Milgaard Inquiry

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Asper Receives Standing

David Asper, one of Milgaard's original lawyers, has received limited standing at the inquiry. That means that his lawyer can cross-examine witnesses but Asper will not receive funding -- or retroactive funding -- as he requested because Commissioner MacCallum needs to see his application in writing.

One reason that Asper wanted standing was that he was afraid that people like himself who tried to free Milgaard may be criticized in the hearings. MacCallum concurred and said that it was possible that David Asper's reputation maybe adversely affected by other people's testimony's and that his own testimony may not be received well by others. According to CBC News, David Asper intimated that some witnesses in the Milgaard trial were "liars" or "bad guys."

The Calgary Sun quoted Asper as describing the Milgaard case as a "war of liberation." He said that at one point it seemed to be "us against everyone," and finished by saying, "I do believe in democracy, and I do believe in the power of the people, and I do believe that if we took our case and said it loud enough and yelled it loud enough, and enough times, that we would prevail."

Asper has already said that David's incarceration helped their case; it was easier to garnish public attention and sympathy for someone who was trapped in prison who didn't belong there.

Asper told the inquiry that he was given the case back in 1986 when he was a law student. It looked like a no-brainer to him because he instantly realized that Milgaard was convicted on the basis of several suspect statements made by two kids, Ron Wilson and Nichol John. By the mid-eighties, Ron had already retracted his damning statements and Nichol never repeated her initial assertion that she had seen David stab someone. That comment was only made when she was coerced by the police and Asper thought that the whole story sounded fishy. He was definitely right about that!

Sigrid Mac

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

David Asper Applies for Standing

David Asper, one of Milgaard's original lawyers, has applied for standing and funding at the inquiry. Asper will be called as a witness anyway and according to CBC News, "after reviewing transcripts of the inquiry, it appeared to Asper that some parties were seeking 'to justify their conduct or roles in the wrongful conviction of Mr. Milgaard and in so doing, to cast aspersions upon those involved on Mr. Milgaard's behalf in overturning the convictions.'"

Asper is best known as the son of the late Izzy Asper, owner of CanWest Global Communications. CBC estimated CanWest's holdings at approximately $1 billion, intimating that some people thought that Asper should pay for his own funding at the inquiry. Why should he be forced to do that when no one else is paying for their standing? Moreover, Asper wants the right to cross-examine witnesses.

In many circles, David Asper was seen as the knight in shining armor who rescued Milgaard; Asper was the junior lawyer on Milgaard's case and he put in an inordinate amount of time, blood, sweat and tears along with Hersh Wolch to get the case to the Supreme Court. However, the public doesn't seem to be quite as pleased with Asper in his CanWest role.

Sigrid Mac, still lounging outside of Fort Lauderdale

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Milgaard will testify via video

Justice Edward MacCallum has ordered David Milgaard to testify before the inquiry on video. This will be filmed on March 6 in Vancouver where David now resides.

There has been a great deal of friction between Milgaard and MacCallum and uncertainty as to whether or not David would testify at his own hearing after David announced last fall that talking about his experience in prison made him "physically ill." David called a press conference and stated that he had no intention of participating in his own hearing, which irritated Justice MacCallum.

After several months of deliberation with the commission's lawyers meeting with Milgaard's lawyers, an agreement was finally reached. David's lawyer, Hersh Wolch, asked if David could testify in writing because that would be less stressful for him than a cross-examination. Wolch brought two psychologists to the inquiry; they stated that David suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome as a result of his prolonged incarceration, and that having to testify could precipitate an emotional collapse.

MacCallum was not satisfied with this explanation and ruled that David would testify by video or lose his standing at the inquiry. If he loses his standing at the $9.2 million inquiry that means that his lawyer will not be able to cross-examine other witnesses.

Wolch said that David will do "his best" but that he is concerned about the psychological aftermath.

Sigrid Mac

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Error Made by Milgaard's Original Judge

Calvin Tallis, David Milgaard's defense lawyer during his 1970 trial, told the inquiry this week that he thought that it was a mistake for the jury to have heard Nichol Johns' testimony. Nichol was one of the two teenagers who was traveling with David during his fateful trip through Saskatoon in 1969. She told police that she had seen David stab Gail Miller but she only said that when she was held against her will for two entire nights in police custody and was taken to the scene of the crime by investigators and shown evidence of Gail Miller's clothes.

Tallis and "Bobs" Caldwell, the prosecutor, both agreed that Nichol's statements should not be heard before a jury because she never repeated her original allegation. Both during the preliminary hearing and the trial itself when Nichol was asked what happened on that frigid morning in Saskatchewan, she maintained that she couldn't remember.

Nichol was supposed to be a key witness for the prosecution, but her change of heart made her a very weak witness. Tallis was hoping that if Nichol was allowed to talk without the jury present, he could argue that she had been coerced into implicating her friend Milgaard by an overzealous police force.

However, Justice Alfred Bence ruled that the jury would remain in the room when Nichol spoke. Later on, The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in agreement with Tallis and Caldwell and said Bence had erred. However, the Appeal Court declared that the error was not significant enough to reverse the verdict.

Johns' testimony was very damning to Milgaard, despite the fact that Justice Bence told the jury to disregard it and only to consider Nichol's statement at trial, which was that she could not recall what had occurred that morning.

Sigrid Mac

Friday, February 10, 2006


Justice Edward MacCallum was not convinced by the testimony of two of Milgaard's psychologists that David Milgaard suffers from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. How ridiculous!

David has endured a lifetime of depression thanks to his incarceration. He made numerous suicide attempts in prison; developed a serious alcohol problem when he got out of prison; had to be hospitalized during the middle of the negotiations for the civil suit; and displays many of the symptoms of someone with PTSD. He's restless. He can't settle down. He can't talk about past events because they're too disturbing to him. I'm not sure if he still has nightmares but I know that he once told me that he couldn't sleep alone.

Justice MacCallum seems to have his mind closed towards David's mental state and what would be in his best interests. That's very sad. After all, this is the MILGAARD inquiry.

Sigrid Mac

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Good News, Bad News for the Milgaard Camp

The bad news is that David will have to testify, altho his psychologist has said that may adversely affect his mental health. OTOH, the good news is that Dave will be allowed to testify by video and only one lawyer will interview him face to face - the other 11 lawyers with standing can submit questions, according to Canadian Press.

The date for taping is March 6th in Vancouver, where David, his wife and child are now living.

Sigrid Mac

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Calvin Tallis

The Inquiry heard from Calvin Tallis earlier this week. He was Milgaard's defense lawyer back in 1970. Tallis was grilled and asked several pertinent questions, such as why he did not put David on the stand during the trial. He replied that he did not think that David would be a good witness because he was an avowed drug user and a hippie; that would've made him unpopular with the jury and it was one of the factors in Tallis's decision not to request a change of venue for the trial.

Moreover, apparently, David had confessed to Tallis that he had considered stealing a woman's purses that morning in Saskatoon when he and his friends stopped the car and asked for directions. Tallis did not want this information to get out because he was afraid that the prospect of robbery might lead the jurors to consider theft as a motive for murder.

And apparently, Milgaard had said to Tallis that he "didn't know" if he'd had blood on his clothes that morning and that he'd been driving well over the speed limit-- two things that would have surely gone against him under cross examination.

Lastly, Tallis was asked if he viewed Milgaard any differently because David was a legal aid case. Naturally, Tallis replied, "No."

Sigrid Mac, still reporting from Florida

Donald Marshall -- charged with attempted murder

In other news, well renowned victim of wrongful conviction, Donald Marshall, is up on attempted murder charges. Marshall was arrested last month in Nova Scotia and charged with uttering death threats, dangerous driving and attempting to take the life of a man that he knew, with whom he had "bad blood."

Lawyers are arguing that the anti-rejection drugs that Marshall must take to maintain his health following a double lung transplant in 2003 affected his mental health. I'll be monitoring this sad state of affairs.

Sigrid Mac

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Catching Up

Some of us are in Florida on an extended vacation -- anyone who has ever visited Ottawa in January will understand why! -- and others are busy having babies and waiting to hear if they will have to testify at the Inquiry.

Friday before last, David and his new wife Cristina were thrilled to announce the birth of their first child, a boy named Robert David. It's wonderful that despite his incarceration for nearly one quarter of a century, David is now able to have a semblance of a normal life.

No word as of yet as to whether or not David will be required to testify in person at the hearing. There should be some determination about that soon.

His lawyer has requested that Milgaard be able to answer questions in writing or via a tape recorder. Journalists were concerned yesterday about David's mental health during any form of testimony since he tried to kill himself four times when he was in prison (I thought that it was three times but I guess that I was wrong.) We'll see what the outcome is. It's been a long time coming!

Sigrid Mac, lying in the sun outside of Fort Lauderdale and very lazy about her blogs lately

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