David Milgaard, a sixteen year old teen, was wrongfully accused of murder. He served 23 years of jail time for his supposed crime. The murder and rape of Gail Miller. The story starts on January 31, 1969, David and his friends decided that they would go on a road trip from Regina to Vancouver.
At 9:00am the next morning, they had to pick up David’s friend, Albert Cadrain, who lived in Saskatoon. Later that same day, they left to make their way to Calgary. They were all oblivious to the fact that the man that lived in Albert’s basement apartment, Larry Fisher, was a serial rapist who sexually assaulted then murdered Gail Miller. The police questioned over 160 potential suspects but was unable to find any evidence or leads that would prove any of them were the suspect they were looking for.
On March 2, 1969, Albert Cadrain, who had just came back from his trip, reported to the Saskatoon Police that he had noticed David Milgaard acting strangely the day of Gail’s murder. Albert then told the police he recalled David having blood on his clothes that morning, which made him believe that David had done the unthinkable and killed Gail Miller. Later it was discovered that Albert was given $2,000 from the police in exchange for the information. David’s friends Ron and Nichol which were with him on the day of the murder, were brought in for questioning by the police. They initially told the police that David was with them on the day of the murder, which would give him an alibi.
The police, not convinced by the statements given by the two teens, kept bringing them in for additional questioning. Gradually their stories began to change, painting David as the murderer everyone thought he was. During an interview that had included a polygraph test, Ron told the police that David had told him that he himself was involved in Gail’s murder. Nichol took it one step further, saying that she had witnessed David stabbing Gail. On May 30th, 1969, David was arrested and charged for the rape and murder of Gail Miller. Unbeknownst to the police, Larry Fisher had committed the crime that David was arrested for.
THE TRIALGoing into the trial things did not look good for David. He was innocent but the prosecution had Ron and Nichol’s testimonies as evidence of David’s guilt. Nichol refused to repeat her testimony in front of the court but the prosecutor was still able to read her statement in front of the jury. As the trial continued a story that incriminated David even more came to light. Back in May 1969, David was being teased at a party for being a murder suspect. He then responded by recreating the murder scene by stabbing a pillow repeatedly.
These two pieces of evidence proved his guilt to the jury, and they found him guilty of rape and murder. Knowing he was innocent, he appealed to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal but he was dismissed. On December 15 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to grant him leave for appeal.HELP ALONG THE WAYThroughout his journey to Justice, David had many who helped him along the way.
Such as his defence attorney Hersh Wolch, Hersh played a key role in getting David released from prison. He never gave up on his clients and in the end helped exonerate and free David. “Hersh was my friend and he was a good man — he freed me from prison and he worked hard to do so,” said Milgaard to the Calgary Herald.As well as his defence attorney, David’s mother, Joyce (picture of her on the right) was a huge help in the case which lead to David’s exoneration. She refused to give up, fighting for justice for her son, who has suffered from physical and sexual assault in prison.
She launched her own investigation, telling David’s story all around the world, through media platforms. Spending her life savings advocating for her sons release. She stopped at nothing to bring the truth about her son to light.
On August 28th, 1990, Larry fisher’s ex-wife, Linda, went to the police and told them she had reason to believe that her husband killed Gail Miller. She then goes on to explaining that on the day of Gail’s murder she was arguing with her husband, by then the story of Gail’s murder was all over the news. The story began playing on the radio and Linda accused him, in the heat of the moment, of killing Gail Miller. She then noticed his shocked expression after her accusation which she found odd, then later that day she noticed that a paring knife had gone missing. Although this seemed like a promising lead, the Saskatoon police never followed up with her on her statement.
Since the police did not follow up on the lead, Joyce took it upon herself to investigate Larry Fisher. In March 1983, Joyce learned that during the time of the murder, Larry Fisher the convicted rapist and attempted murderer, was living in Albert Cadrain’s basement apartment. This piece of evidence began the journey to exonerating David.On December 28, 1988, David filled out an application to request the Ministry of Justice to take a look at his conviction. The Minister ended up turning down the application. David tried again, this time saying that Larry Fisher had killed Gail Miller and not him.
Joyce had gained so many supporters through social media and other platforms, by spreading David’s story. This put a lot of pressure on the Ministry, and they ended up asking the Supreme Court of Canada if David should get another trial. The Supreme Court decided that the conviction would be thrown out a new trial would take place. The fight for David’s freedom lasted 5 long years, but with the help of Innocence Canada (formerly AIDWYC), they were able to use forensic scientific techniques that were not available before. On July 18th, 1997, the DNA testing came back confirming that the semen found on Gail’s clothing was in fact Larry Fishers, not David’s.
Now that there is solid proof that David was innocent, he was finally free. So with the help of his defence attorney, Innocence Canada, and his mother, David was finally exonerated and free to live his life. He was given $10 million dollars to compensate for the 23 years he was in jail.