Milgaard will get $10 million compensation

David Milgaard is about to receive the largest compensation package in Canadian criminal history. The Saskatchewan government has announced it will hand Milgaard $10 million in compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned for almost a quarter of a century.

Saskatchewan Justice Minister John Nilson made the announcement on Monday in Regina.

"This has been a complex and difficult matter," Nilson said. "Throughout this process our government has remained committed to achieving fair compensation for the Milgaards."

Most of the money will go to Milgaard who spent 22 years in jail for a crime he didn't comit. A small amount, $750,000, will also go directly to Milgaard's mother, Joyce, who fought for years to clear his name. It will be up to Milgaard to decide how much of the money he will share with his brothers and sisters.

Joyce Milgaard said the family will keep it private how the money will be divided up. She said, "It was the whole family that did this - it wasn't just Joyce Milgaard."

The federal government will contribute $4 million to the settlement while the government of Saskatchewan will contribute the remaining $6 million. Milgaard and his family signed the deal on Sunday evening.

The compensation follows nearly two years of drawn-out negotiations between Milgaard's lawyers and retired Quebec judge Alan Gold, who represented the NDP government.

While Milgaard may be a millionaire the compensation can never make up for the 46-year-old's long and torturous ordeal, supporters say.

Milgaard was just 17 when he was sent to prison in 1970 for the brutal sex-slaying of nursing aide Gail Miller in Saskatoon. He suffered horrendous abuse behind bars. He was raped and tried to commit suicide. He escaped twice and was shot while being recaptured by police in Toronto.

Milgaard was released from prison in 1992 after years of efforts by his mother led to a review of his case by the Supreme Court of Canada. The high court threw out Milgaard's conviction and he was finally exonerated in July 1997 after DNA tests proved that semen found at the crime scene didn't match his.

Larry Fisher has since been charged with the rape and murder of Gail Miller. His trial begins Oct. 12 in Yorkton, Sask.

Milgaard's lawyers contend Saskatoon police and Saskatchewan justice officials covered up or ignored evidence pointing to another suspect, even going so far as to destroy files relevant to the case.

Milgaard, who lives with his wife in Vancouver, launched two lawsuits against officials. One accused five former prosecutors and Saskatoon police of conspiracy. He will also drop both.

The Saskatchewan Justice Department apologized to Milgaard after he was exonerated and promised compensation and a public inquiry.

While the compensation issue is now settled, it could be years before the inquiry is called. That's because it must wait until Fisher's trial is over.