AFTER 22 years behind bars, David Milgaard walked out of Stony Mountain prison near Winnipeg, Manitoba, last Thursday, freed when Canada's Supreme Court overturned his 1970 murder conviction and recommended a retrial because of new evidence.
In Saskatchewan, where the murder occurred, Attorney General Bob Mitchell said Mr. Milgaard would not be retried, thus setting him free. But Mr. Mitchell said he was staying the murder charges against Milgaard for a year, meaning the charge could be reactivated during that time, though it appears unlikely.
Joyce Milgaard, David's mother, and others spent years lobbying on behalf of Milgaard, who always maintained his innocence. "We are so grateful he is free and that so many people believed in him," she said.
In the last few years Milgaard's case has been widely publicized, including in The Christian Science Monitor, and discussed in Canada and the United States.
The Supreme Court decision followed an investigation in which the judges said recanted testimony and information about another possible suspect in the slaying of 20-year-old nursing assistant, Gail Miller, was sufficient to order a retrial.
Even though the Supreme Court said that Milgaard had had a fair trial and the police had investigated properly, his attorneys argue that the case against him was always circumstantial. They say it was never proved conclusively that Milgaard was at the scene of the crime where Ms. Miller was sexually assaulted and murdered with a paring knife.
Milgaard's attorneys and others have alleged that Larry Fisher, a convicted serial rapist who lived only a block from where Miller was killed and who rode the same city bus as the woman, may have slain her. Fisher, who also used a paring knife in a sexual assault, is in prison on other sexual assault charges. He has denied murdering Miller. He is due to be released in 1994.
Attorneys for Milgaard, upset by the hard stance taken by the attorney general, say they will press ahead for a formal inquiry into police procedures used at the time of the murder investigation.
Mitchell said there will be no inquiry, nor will Milgaard be offered any financial compensation for his time in prison.