Even as millions are spent on this inquiry into a 37 year old murder, two prime examples of how wrongful convictions occur are unfolding in Saskatoon. Wilfred Hathway is having his defence severely handicapped as prosecutor Brent Klause has successfully obtained an order from now Chief Justice Robert Laing to keep disclosure out of the hands of his defence team. Denver Crawford's memory is not being well served. Material has surfaced which indicates Dominic McCullock's lawyer, Mark Brayford, did not provide a vigorous defence for his client who was convicted of killing Jaime Wheeler. This brutal murder was described as savage, committed by a dangerous person, by Judge Laing, even though the conviction was for second degree murder. This raises again the 2000 conviction of Leon Walchuk who has steadfastly maintained his innocence in the murder of his wife and whose appeals have been turned down, despite evidence not presented at trial which would show serious flaws in the Crown's case.
-- Sheila Steele
REGINA, SK -- The provincial government is boosting the budget for the inquiry into the wrongful conviction of David Milgaard and setting aside money for the possible settlement of outstanding lawsuits in the Martensville malicious prosecution case, Justice Minister Frank Quennell said Tuesday.
The Justice Department is getting $1.4 million in additional funding as part of $140 million in special warrants for spending approved by the provincial cabinet last week as the end of the fiscal year looms on March 31.
Quennell said $700,000 of that amount will top up the $2 million budget for the Milgaard inquiry for 2004-05, while another allocation for the inquiry will still be made in the upcoming provincial budget.
"It was a rough estimate at the beginning and when we got their schedule in January it appeared it was underestimated," he said in a phone interview from Humboldt.
Of the remainder, $450,000 has been set aside in case settlements can be agreed on with the three remaining plaintiffs in the Martensville case, said Quennell.
"That could happen. If it was impossible for that to happen we wouldn't have to put aside any amount for it," he said.
Group home operators Ron and Linda Sterling, a youth and five police officers were charged with 180 criminal offences alleging ritual sex abuse against children at the Sterling's day care in 1992.
The plaintiffs were tried and acquitted on all charges. Charges against some of the police officers were stayed after the Sterling acquittals. The entire file yielded one conviction of sexual assault.
After the launch of lawsuits for malicious prosecution, the province paid $925,000 as part of a $1.3 million settlement reached in November with Ron and Linda Sterling and the plaintiff who was a youth at the time. One of the police officers, John Popowich (right), sued and in 2002 was awarded $1.3 million.
Three other police officers, Darren Sabourin, Jim Elstad and Ed Revesz, are the remaining plaintiffs.
Lawyers for the three said they have not reached any settlements with the government.
"Discussions are ongoing," but no decisions have been made, said Lee Cutforth, who represents Sabourin.
Elstad's lawyer, Richard Gabruch, said the "litigation is proceeding" and he's preparing for the examination for discovery process next month.
Bill Roe, the lawyer for Revesz, also said he hasn't heard anything about a settlement for his client.
The remaining $250,000 in the special warrant for Justice is also connected with the Martensville case as legal fees for the public prosecutors who were sued.
Out of the other special warrants for spending approved last week, the largest expenditure is $101,200,000 for the province's share of funding for the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program, which was announced last December.
Finance Department spokesperson Mike Woods said the use of special warrants to cover costs not incurred in the provincial budget is common at year-end. The government must ensure spending is booked into the correct fiscal year.
Finance Minister Harry Van Mulligen recently projected a year-end surplus of about $289 million. The special warrants passed this week will not affect that projection, he said Tuesday.
Among the additional spending in the warrants was $7 million for the Saskatchewan Property Management Corp. as it starts buying vehicles outright for the provincial fleet rather than leasing with the option to buy.
SPMC spokesperson Nadine Sisk said the changes are expected to save the government $1.2 million during the next five years.
The premier's office is also getting a boost, with Executive Council receiving an additional $305,000 to help pay for the reorganization of the communications division and chief of staff position.
Winter maintenance also cost the Highways Department an additional $6 million because of greater than expected winter storms.
Industry and Resources received an additional $4.5 million, part of which is being used to forgive a $2.8-million loan owed to the province by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.