David Milgaard charged with spousal assault

Cristina Milgaard is standing by her man David as he faces charges for assault and uttering threats against her.

David Milgaard is a Canada Justice poster boy after he spent 23 years in prison for the 1969 murder of Gail Miller, a nurse’s aid. Milgaard was released in 1992 and exonerated in 1999 after DNA evidence proved Miller’s killer was the already incarcerated convicted rapist Larry Fisher.

Milgaard was convicted on circumstantial evidence, was a sixteen year old teenager who was not cooperative with police and a causality of public pressure to blame someone, really anyone for the murder, so that in the public’s mind, the danger was resolved and everything could return to normal.

For everyone but David Milgaard, who had only his mother as support and as a beleiver in his innocence and it would be a long 23 years of not normal and 5 more besides to be vindicated in this miscarriage of justice.

Mother and Son, reunited

My personal connection to David Milgaard was in 1996, before DNA cleared him, but after he was released. I was working for a lawyer who worked with the John Howard Society. Milgaard was a client of the society and he would occasionally drop by our offices and we were selling hand bound copies of a slender volume of poems “The Rabbit’s Paw (for Bandit Blues).”

When I met him, he had a timidness to him that I lacked the capacity at the time to understand.A timidness that anyone who hasn’t been thoroughly and wrongfully abused and punished by authority can’t understand, although, I do not consider my last three years as comparable to David’s stolen life; it’s given me insight into how destructive being caught up by a massive bureaucracy that just needs to get things done, no matter the cost to people and without regard to reality.

When your own actions are no longer predictors to how people will respond. It makes you very timid and anxious because you have learned to fear what you can’t predict and when reality is ignored in favour of easy answers and convenience and you are sacrificed on that premise, as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:

To predict the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence.

In any event, the lawyer I worked for was a little starstruck by Milgaard, because my lawyer became a lawyer to fight the good fight of social justice. As a social justice poster boy, Milgaard was a rock star.

I had a wider and shallower view of social justice back then; I had worked for the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective for several years, and had been news editor of a new defunct Vancouver Gay and Lesbians newspaper, Angles, and had spent thousands of hours in grassroots activism. I was for social justice, but across the board and justice for all. It was a heady time and looking back. not at all surprising that life felt the same as being in university – learning, protesting, being involved, passionate caring about everything but no one thing in particular.

My lawyer couldn’t accept that his excitement that Milgaard would drop by wasn’t especially shared by me. It was cool, but nothing I expected to be eventful. So, when Milgaard arrived, my lawyer blurted out that I wanted an autographed copy of the poetry book. So he signed one for me.

His autograph at the time and probably now, was “Justice delayed, Justice denied” followed by his name.

I got a different autograph, which was a little cool to me.

To properly set up this next part, I have to jump down south, as a news story appeared about the American doctor who’s wife’s murder was turned into a TV series and a few movies called “The Fugitive.” To recap, this doctor was charge with the murder of his wife and he maintained his innocence.

A book about the crime turned up, not written by, but autographed by the Doctor with the single word :”yes”. The Doctor had since died and the person who owned the book was claiming the autograph was a confession.

So, David autographed the book to me:

And I used to joke for a long time that I had Milgaard’s confession in writing, but stopped using the joke when DNA exonerated him.

I tucked the book into my bookcase, the lawfirm closed and I changed industry sectors. Over time, I blurred the details until the only part of the autograph I remembered was the mention of having a secret and until I pulled the book to take the picture, I’d forgotten that he’d written down the secret – possibly because of the Fugitive Doctor news story. So, I had to remove that part of the image, it’s a secret, after all.

In any event, David Milgaard is the Poster Boy for Social Justice and the human cost of what bureaucracy is capable of. Which isn’t to say he should get a pass for the events that transpired between him and Christine, but she understands that you can’t ignore the context of those events and she knows his heart.

She’s standing by her man and I am keeping our secret.

2 thoughts on “David Milgaard charged with spousal assault

  1. Fascinating stuff but, no criticism intended, I am really annoyed about not knowing the secret. The impact on his external behaviour may have been nothing compared to what happened inside his head. My eldest daughter cares for abused dogs. What is interesting is how such dogs always assume they are the centre of attention even when they are being ignored. It is as if this once an obligation on the abuser, to make them the centre of attention. In my next book the main female character works for a law firm that provides support to the underprivileged. So I await with interest more memories.

    • The secret is a MacGuffin in that the fact of the secret is part of the story while the actual secret is of little consequence and disappointing after that build up.

      To a dog or a child, they are the centre of the universe, even when as you say, they are being ignored – that just gives them time to wallow in their outcast state.

      It’s adults who should be able to understand that not even the Earth is at the centre of everything, and that while each of us are the star of our life story, we’re just one story of 7 billion now and over 100 billion people since the beginning of people.

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