- David Milgaard has died after serving more than two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was 69.
- The Saskatchewan government issued a formal apology and a $10 million compensation package to Milgaard.
- In his later years, Milgaard worked to raise awareness of wrongful convictions and to urge reforms in how Canadian courts judge convictions.
David Milgaard, who spent more than 2 decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, has died. He was 69.
Milgaard was sentenced as a teenager for the rape and murder of Gail Miller, a nurse on her way to work in Saskatchewan, in 1969. He was given a life sentence in prison.
“He was a complicated individual.” Milgaard’s lawyer, David Asper, described him as “a youthful jail David, a more mature prison David, and then a free person” from 1986 to 1992, when he was eventually released.
“But one thing that those Davids had in common was a phenomenal resiliency, not only survival instinct.”
It took 23 years for the court to overturn his conviction and another five years for him to be legally forgiven, thanks to the arrival of DNA evidence and tireless work by his legal team, family, and some other advocates.
Milgaard received a formal apology and a $10 million compensation package from the Saskatchewan government.
“He had to evolve, but he also had to overcome.” And it was quite difficult to go through with him,” Asper explained. “We were never certain he would be released.”
Milgaard became a crusader for the unfairly convicted during and after his incarceration. He formed something called the Justice Group within the prison.
“It’s hardly surprising that he continued to advocate for others once he was released,” Asper said.
Milgaard helped raise awareness about unjust convictions and demanded changes in how Canadian courts assess convictions in his latter years.
“I believe it is critical for everyone, not just lawyers, but the general public, to be aware that false convictions are occurring and that these people are currently incarcerated and attempting to get out,” he stated in 2015. “The policies that keep them there must be altered.” The system for reviewing erroneous convictions is failing us all badly.”
According to James Lockyer, a Toronto-based lawyer as well as co-founder of Innocence Canada, Milgaard’s legacy is still unfolding.
“He was a trailblazer attempting to establish an independent tribunal to address wrongful conviction claims through the Department of Justice in Ottawa,” Lockyer said. “We’ll all miss him tremendously.”
Milgaard and Lockyer met with federal justice minister David Lametti only two years ago to lobby for the establishment of the independent panel, and “I know David had a tremendous impact on the minister when we met,” according to Lockyer.
“The minister, David Lametti, who is still the minister, has a lot of (David Milgaard’s) legacy in his hands to construct the independent tribunal,” Lockyer added.
Lockyer claimed he visited Milgaard roughly six weeks ago at his Calgary residence. “He was his normal cheerful self,” she said, referring to the necessity for an independent commission and recent wrongful conviction claims in Canada.
Lockyer said he was just leaving a British Columbia prison. He had been visiting a lady whose wrongful conviction case Milgaard had referred to him when he learned of Milgaard’s death on Sunday.
“I’ll keep doing what David intended me to do, so there will be a legacy.”
Source: Global News