Milgaard Inquiry

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Break at Long Last

The Milgaard inquiry will be taking a break for the summer -- thank God! I have been having great difficulty keeping up with it since it has gone on so much longer than anyone had ever anticipated.

Tim Cook from the Canadian Press states that throughout "the 170 hearing days since the inquiry began in January of 2005, Justice Edward MacCallum has listened to 107 witnesses, and the previous testimony of 18 more has been read into the record. The transcript is now more than 35,000 pages long.

"The budget has ballooned from $2 million initially to about $10 million as it sits now - $7.5 million of which has already been spent. " Whew.

One issue that the inquiry has had to struggle with, according to Cook, is the misperception that this case has been analyzed left, right, and upside down over the years when David had two trials, appeared before the Supreme Court, had a TV movie made about him, and was the subject of at least two different books.

However, according to Doug Hodson, lawyer for the official commission, this material needs to be assembled and viewed within a proper context. Many accusations have been made over the decades, including the idea that police, prosecutors or government officials knew that Larry Fisher may have been the real murderer. This notion has not been supported by evidence presented at the hearing thus far.

The inquiry will reconvene at the end of August, ostensibly for another five weeks.

Sigrid Mac

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Milgaards Still under Fire

Catherine Knox, representing former Crown prosecutor Bobs Caldwell at the inquiry, suggested that Joyce Milgaard and her defense team made several remarks and accusations against certain people, including Caldwell, that were false.

Many times over the years, Joyce referred to a knife that was found near Gail Miller's body, which she believed that Caldwell had ignored. It has now been firmly established that the knife was unrelated to the murder. Milgaard conceded this fact but said that she still could not "wash him clean" and the inquiry had to remember that during this period of time, she was unable to trust the police, the prosecutors, her own original defense lawyer and the criminal justice system in general.

Joyce was also accused by Knox of saying that Calvin Tallis, David Milgaard's own lawyer, had withheld important information at his trial and that in the 1980s, the Saskatoon police told witnesses not to talk to her. Joyce acknowledges now that the police only told witnesses that they didn't have to speak with her, but she refuses to apologize for any of the above statements that she made that may have been incorrect. She wants people to realize that she was understandably distrustful of the entire system because her innocent son spent 23 years behind bars for a crime that he did not commit.

Sigrid Mac

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Williams Continues

Eugene Williams has been testifying at the inquiry this week. He was a former lawyer for the federal Justice Department who reported to the Justice Minister.

Williams explained that it was not his role to make any decisions about the cases that he reviewed. His task was to screen out the applications and pass on his thoughts and observations to the Minister. Thus, he could advise but ultimately he didn't have the final decision-making power.

Williams stated that Milgaard's first application under Section 690 of the Criminal Code was rejected because the Milgaard camp had questioned the conclusions of the forensic evidence; semen that had been found in the snow next to Gail Miller's body had been reanalyzed and Deb Hall, a girl who was at a party with Dave when he had supposedly confessed to killing Miller, had come forth saying that David was simply being silly and sarcastic that night and that no one had believed that he was involved. These two items were presented in the application as new evidence, which was needed in order to file the 690.

However, Williams was not satisfied with the conclusions of the forensic lab and intimated that the Milgaards had not prepared their original application as well as they could have. He also made it clear that he felt that the responsibility to prove that a potential miscarriage of justice had occurred was on Milgaard and his lawyers, not on the Justice Department.

Furthermore, Eugene Williams stated that the more pressure that the Milgaards put on the media, the more it slowed him and the Justice Department down. He complained that he had to spend additional time preparing responses for the Minister to deliver to the press and said: "The public's view is being shaped by a series of articles that didn't fully reflect the facts as I knew them and I was unable to correct that perception without violating the law as I understood it."

Sigrid Mac

Source material : Julie Saccone, Saskatchewan News Network Saskatchewan

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Nine million dollar baby

The cost of the Milgaard Inquiry, which was supposed to have ended within approximately 12 months, is expected to exceed $9 million.

Eugene Williams testifies

Yesterday Eugene Williams, former Federal Justice Department lawyer, testified about his role in the investigation of Milgaard's 1988 application to have his murder conviction reviewed under Section 690 of the Criminal Code.

Earlier in the inquiry, Milgaard's former defense lawyer, David Asper, said that he was frustrated dealing with the Justice Department and felt that they were biased in maintaining Milgaard's conviction, according to the Star Phoenix.

Williams declared that he took the application quite seriously and that his role was a reactive one rather than proactive. His job was to pre-screen the application before it went to the federal Justice Minister.

Milgaard's first 690 application was rejected on December 27, 1991 and his legal team filed again in August of that same year.

Sigrid Mac

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Justice officials forced to testify

Justice Edward MacCallum has ruled that asking federal officials why they made decisions in the Milgaard case, and what prompted them to do so, falls within the mandate of the inquiry.

This is a victory for Milgaard supporters and a setback for Justice officials who had argued that there should be a limit to the amount of questions that they had to answer.

Next week, the only witness will be a federal justice department lawyer who investigated and then rejected David Milgaard's claim of wrongful conviction in the 1980s.

Sigrid Mac

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Milgaard on trial

The latest news that I've read said that Joyce Milgaard was accused of lying by Garrett Wilson, the lawyer for Serge Kujawa, former Crown prosecutor. Wilson asked Milgaard about her flying experience and suggested that she was not being truthful about how many hours she had spent in the air.

He went on to say that Joyce Milgaard had staged tears last week when she was shown the letter from former Justice Minister Kim Campbell, in order to elicit greater sympathy from the inquiry.

"I suggest to you, Ms. Milgaard, that that incident was entirely feigned, contrived, staged -- in fact phoney," Wilson said.

Milgaard vehemently denied the accusations.

"I would not for one moment resort to ploys like that at this inquiry," she said. "This is an inquiry that I hope the truth will come out of. You'd think I would actually ... do something like that? I find that obscene." (source =Betty Ann Adam and Julie Saccone, Saskatchewan News Network; CanWest News Service.)

Joyce also refused to answer questions after being called a liar. However, earlier in the day, she did admit that just as the police were caught up in their own tunnel vision that prevented them from seeing David's innocence, so was she preoccupied with her own theories as to who the real killer might have been.

After all the Milgaards have been through over the years, it is very sad to see them under attack here in the very forum that is supposed to be seeking final justice for them. I have serious doubts as to whether or not this process will bring any real closure, answers or accountability to this case in the long run.

Sigrid Mac

Messy Business with Romanow

On Tuesday, the inquiry talked about the Milgaard's allegation that former Premier of Saskatchewan, Roy Romanow, was involved in a coverup in their case. Joyce Milgaard made this accusation after the Supreme Court of Canada left David in a state of legal limbo by quashing his conviction and ordering a new trial, but not declaring him to be innocent.

At that point, Michael Breckenridge came into the picture. According to the CBC, he got in touch with the Milgaard lawyers and told them that he had seen Romanow with senior prosecutors in 1971, "where a decision was made to cover up information about serial rapist Larry Fisher."

Joyce Milgaard, understandably concerned about this information, went public with her allegations against Romanow. What she didn't know was that Breckenridge did not even work for the Justice Department at the time that he claimed to see the meeting with the premier and prosecutors.

Sigrid Mac

Kudos to Chretien!

In 1995, Winnipeg MP John Harvard arranged for Joyce Milgaard to meet with then Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Justice Minister Allan Rock. Although David had been released from prison in 1992 based on the landmark Supreme Court decision, his innocence had not been formally established. Joyce told Chretien what an adverse effect this was having on her son and her family.

Consequently, he turned to Rock and said "'Whatever you can do for this lady, I want you to help her in whatever way you can. Do you understand?", Betty Ann Adam of the Star Phoenix reported.

This paved the way for Rock to agree to test Gail Miller's clothes for DNA. It took two years for this process to be completed but the results were stunning. David was finally exonerated after 28 years of struggle!

Joyce was living in Ottawa in the early to mid-1990s and I was seeing her socially and involved with her case and that of other wrongly convicted people. How well I remember her visits to Chretien and Rock. By the time the DNA test came back, Joyce had already relocated back to Winnipeg. I still miss our evenings out at the Colonnade pizza parlor!

Sigrid Mac

Lorne Mahar

Earlier this week, Joyce admitted that she had suspected a man by the name of Lorne Mahar of killing Gail Miller. She had found Mahar's name on microfilm in the Star Phoenix newspaper and thought that his profile sounded suspicious. Joyce told this to Aaron Fox, lawyer for Eddy Karst, former detective.

Although Joyce Milgaard and journalist Peter Carlyle-Gordge had interviewed Albert Cadrain and his brother, who lived in the basement of the house where Larry Fisher lived, and Carlyle-Gordge had seen Fisher's name in a police report, he and Joyce never connected Fisher to the Miller murder.

Sigrid Mac

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