CBC Digital Archives

1992: David Milgaard is a free man

He was a carefree teenaged hippie just passing through Saskatoon on Jan. 31, 1969 — the same day nursing assistant Gail Miller was raped and stabbed to death in a back alley. On the strength of sketchy forensics and unreliable witnesses, David Milgaard was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. Twenty years later, his case made national headlines as his mother Joyce confronted politicians in a bid to free her son from jail. By the time he was cleared in 1997, David Milgaard had become one of the most famous examples of wrongful conviction in Canada.

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After 8,355 days in prison, David Milgaard is finally leaving a life sentence behind. In January 1970, at age 17, he was convicted of the murder of Saskatoon nursing assistant Gail Miller. Twenty-two years later, a Supreme Court review of the case concluded that Milgaard was entitled to a new trial. But as this clip from CBC News explains, Milgaard is still in legal limbo.

New evidence has emerged that could exonerate Milgaard. But questions about his innocence may linger now that the province of Saskatchewan has declined to retry him. The province has also ruled out an inquiry into his conviction or compensation for his years in jail. In Saskatoon, meanwhile, Gail Miller's friends are hoping they can finally put her memory to rest.
• On Jan. 31, 1969, while nursing assistant Gail Miller was waiting for her bus to work, she was raped and murdered in a Saskatoon back lane.
• During their investigation, city police rounded up a young man named Albert (Shorty) Cadrain. They questioned him about the murder but turned up nothing. Two weeks later, after hearing about a $2,000 reward, Cadrain approached them to say his friend David Milgaard had been in Saskatoon that morning.

• This is a brief summary of the Milgaard case. For more information, see the CBC Archives topic The Wrongful Conviction of David Milgaard.

• Milgaard and two friends, Ron Wilson and Nichol John, had been in Saskatoon to pick up Cadrain for a road trip west. Police grilled Wilson and John, who eventually made statements implicating Milgaard for the murder.
• In May 1969, police arrested Milgaard in Prince George, B.C., where he was working.
• Exactly one year after the murder, Milgaard was convicted of the crime. He had not been allowed to testify in his trial.

• Milgaard was sentenced to life in prison. He had more than 20 chances at parole, but it was never granted because he refused to take responsibility for the crime.
• Twice - in 1973 and 1980 - Milgaard escaped from prison. The first time he was captured the following day. The second time he was free for 77 days and was living in Toronto under an assumed name when the RCMP captured him, shooting him in the back as he tried to escape.

• In 1980, Milgaard's mother, Joyce Milgaard, began a long campaign to free her son. The family posted a reward for information leading to Milgaard's freedom and, in 1988, filed an application to the minister of justice for a new trial.
• Joyce Milgaard also approached politicians directly, including Justice Minister Kim Campbell and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
• In November 1991, Campbell announced a Supreme Court review of Milgaard's case.

• On April 14, 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that Milgaard's conviction should not stand. Among the evidence cited for the decision was the history of sexual assault by convicted rapist Larry Fisher, who lived in Saskatoon at the time of Miller's murder.
• Milgaard walked out of prison two days later. He and his family held a celebratory dinner at a Winnipeg Chinese restaurant.

• Milgaard's name was finally cleared in 1997, after his case was taken up by Canada's Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC). Testing of DNA on materials from the crime scene proved that Milgaard had not committed the crime - and that Larry Fisher most likely had.
• Fisher was arrested for the murder and was convicted in 1999. He received a life sentence.

• On May 17, 1999, the Saskatchewan government announced it was awarding a compensation package of $10 million to Milgaard. The federal government contributed $4 million to the settlement, and the province covered the rest.
• In exchange, the Milgaards dropped two lawsuits against the province. But the deal also demanded the province launch a public inquiry into the wrongful conviction.

• The inquiry began in Saskatoon in January 2005. Its first phase, lasting three months, heard from witnesses involved in the original investigation and from women raped by Larry Fisher before and after Miller's murder.
• Milgaard was reluctant to testify in the inquiry, saying the thought of it made him physically ill. In February 2006, the judge and all lawyers agreed he could testify by videotape.
• As of March 2006 the inquiry was still underway.

Also on April 16:
1874: William Johnston founds the Ontario Agricultural College. In 1964 it merges with the Veterinary College and the Macdonald Institute to form the University of Guelph.
1999: Wayne Gretzky announces his retirement after 20 NHL seasons.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 16, 1992
Guest(s): Ann Derrick, Ed Greenspan, Joyce Milgaard, Lorne Milgaard, Clayton Ruby
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Joan Beatty, Saša Petricic
Duration: 6:48

Last updated: September 11, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

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