When it comes to David Milgaard’s “second” life, perhaps the late Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie said it best in 1992’s Wheat Kings: “Wait and see what tomorrow brings.”

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/5/2019 (938 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When it comes to David Milgaard’s "second" life, perhaps the late Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie said it best in 1992’s Wheat Kings: "Wait and see what tomorrow brings."

The song was written about the former Winnipegger, who spent 23 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit, and his family’s relentless effort to persuade the federal government to reopen the case.

CP PICTURE ARCHIVE/Jeff McIntosh</p><p>FILE--Larry Fisher waits to be let into a waiting police car at the Yorkton, Saskatchewan, court house after being brought in to hear a jury question on Sunday, November 21, 1999. Fisher, convicted of the brutal murder and rape that kept David Milgaard wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years, will not be able to appeal his case to the Supreme Court of Canada</p>

CP PICTURE ARCHIVE/Jeff McIntosh

FILE--Larry Fisher waits to be let into a waiting police car at the Yorkton, Saskatchewan, court house after being brought in to hear a jury question on Sunday, November 21, 1999. Fisher, convicted of the brutal murder and rape that kept David Milgaard wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years, will not be able to appeal his case to the Supreme Court of Canada

"I’m really not different than anybody else," Milgaard told the Free Press earlier this week. "Life goes up and down. I just do the best I can.

"Remember, it has made me the person I am today, and I like the person I am."

Just last week, the lawyer for Kyle Unger, who was wrongfully convicted in a grisly 1990 slaying in rural Manitoba, reached an out-of-court settlement with the province to compensate him for the 14 years he spent in prison.

Unger’s case is one of four murder convictions obtained by retired Crown prosecutor George Dangerfield in the late 1980s and early 1990s that have been overturned.

Advocates for the wrongly convicted are calling on the province to call an inquiry into the former courtroom star’s career. Not surprisingly, Milgaard is among them.

Geoff Howe</p><p>/ The Canadian Press</p><p>Joyce Milgaard addresses media at the release of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Wrongful Conviction of David Milgaard in Saskatoon, Sask., Friday, Sept. 26, 2008.</p>

Geoff Howe

/ The Canadian Press

Joyce Milgaard addresses media at the release of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Wrongful Conviction of David Milgaard in Saskatoon, Sask., Friday, Sept. 26, 2008.

Now 67 and living near Calgary, he has been vocal about the need for an independent board of review to look at cases of people who say they have been wrongfully convicted, as opposed to the present system, where the federal justice minister — the country’s top lawmaker — looks at them.

"It was bad enough to be wrongly convicted, but to have a system that is bad and faulty isn’t right," he said.

'For 30 years now, judge after judge after judge (has) said how important it would be to have an independent board of review deal with it ‐ to get people out quickly and efficiently ‐ but we're up against a wall.

— David Milgaard

"It needs to be accountable and it needs to be transparent. It needs to be an independent review like in Great Britain. The ministerial review here doesn’t have that. For 30 years now, judge after judge after judge (has) said how important it would be to have an independent board of review deal with it — to get people out quickly and efficiently — but we’re up against a wall.

"Why is the system failing people so badly?"

Kyle Unger's case is one of four murder convictions obtained by retired Crown prosecutor George Dangerfield in the late 1980s and early 1990s that have been overturned. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)</p></p>

Kyle Unger's case is one of four murder convictions obtained by retired Crown prosecutor George Dangerfield in the late 1980s and early 1990s that have been overturned. (Mike Deal / Free Press files)

That question will undoubtedly come up Sunday morning during a free panel discussion focusing on Milgaard’s legal odyssey, hosted by the Canadian Association of Journalists at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The discussion, moderated by the Globe and Mail’s Jana Pruden, will explore the rights to a fair trial and equal treatment before the law. The panel also includes David Asper — one of the lawyers who represented Milgaard in the fight to have his conviction overturned — and CBC journalists Cecil Rosner and Carl Karp.

Milgaard was just 16 years old when he was arrested and charged with the rape and murder of 20-year-old Saskatoon nursing student Gail Miller while he was on a cross-country trip with some friends.

Milgaard received $10 million from the Saskatchewan government in 2000, after he was exonerated by the same DNA evidence that conclusively added Miller’s slaying to convicted serial rapist Larry Fisher’s list of criminal behaviour. Fisher died behind bars in 2015.

David Milgaard has been vocal about the need for an independent board of review to look at cases of people who say they have been wrongfully convicted instead of the present system, where the federal justice minister — the country's top lawmaker — looks at them. (Phil Hossack / Free Press files)</p></p>

David Milgaard has been vocal about the need for an independent board of review to look at cases of people who say they have been wrongfully convicted instead of the present system, where the federal justice minister — the country's top lawmaker — looks at them. (Phil Hossack / Free Press files)

Milgaard lost most of that money through what he calls "bad investments" and now lives in a small community outside of Calgary, where a monthly annuity keeps him going, supplemented by what he gets from the odd speaking engagement.

What matters most is his life now.

"I have a 13-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter," he said. "They keep me young."

Milgaard is spending the weekend visiting family. His mother, Joyce, who worked tirelessly to win his release, still lives in Winnipeg. His father Lorne was 78 when he died in 2007.

He said his mother is "doing all right," although health problems will prevent her from attending Sunday’s discussion, which is scheduled from 10-11:30 a.m.

Free tickets are available at humanrights.ca/event/david-milgaard-in-conversation.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

   Read full biography