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Commission of Inquiry into the Wrongful Conviction of David Milgaard

page twenty-five

It's unfolding that the whole point of this inquiry is to humiliate and punish Joyce Milgaard

Jurisdiction issue stood in way of DNA tests, Milgaard inquiry told

The RCMP wasn't in a position to order DNA tests that could have exonerated David Milgaard in the early 1990s, the inquiry into Milgaard's wrongful conviction has heard.

Murray Sawatsky, the former RCMP officer who led a 1992 investigation into allegations of a high-level coverup in the Milgaard case, told the inquiry this week he would have liked to do DNA tests, but jurisdictional issues between the federal Justice Department and the RCMP scuttled those plans.

Gail Miller

Sawatsky's investigation found no evidence of a coverup, nor did it find evidence that would have exonerated Milgaard, who would spend 23 years behind bars for the 1969 rape and murder of Saskatoon nursing assistant Gail Miller crimes he didn't commit.

DNA analysis, conducted in 1997 on orders from the Justice Department, proved that semen found on Miller's clothing was not Milgaard's. Milgaard had been out of prison since 1992 when the Supreme Court ordered a new trial.

The same DNA evidence identified Larry Fisher as the killer. He's currently serving a life sentence.

Some Milgaard supporters have said the department agreed to the tests only after Joyce Milgaard, David's mother, applied political pressure.

The inquiry headed by Mr. Justice Edward MacCallum, began in January 2005 and is expected to conclude this fall.


RCMP inspector defends investigation into Milgaard conviction

SASKATOON - The RCMP inspector who led a 1993 investigation into allegations of police wrongdoing in David Milgaard's murder conviction has "no idea" why two teenage witnesses lied to implicate Milgaard in a murder he didn't commit.

"How could they both make that up?" Milgaard's lawyer, Hersh Wolch, asked former inspector Murray Sawatsky at Milgaard's wrongful conviction inquiry Tuesday.

Wolch was cross-examining Sawatsky on his 1994 findings that there was no wrongdoing by police who obtained witness statements that reflected an incorrect police theory.

Sawatsky said last week police sometimes have to use psychologically aggressive methods with witnesses. He said there was nothing inappropriate with police outlining a theory of the crime before questioning witnesses, as was done in the case against Milgaard.

Milgaard was released from prison in 1992, after 23 years in prison for the 1969 rape and murder of Gail Miller.

In 1994, RCMP concluded Saskatoon police had been on the right track when they suspected Ron Wilson and Nichol John were lying when they denied any knowledge of Miller's murder and said Milgaard was never away from them long enough to have committed the crime.

The real killer was Larry Fisher, a fact that was proven with DNA evidence in 1997.

Sawatsky ruled out Fisher as a suspect in 1994, in part because he didn't have enough evidence to lay charges, he said.

Wolch asked Sawatsky to reconsider his findings, now that he knows police were on the wrong track.

''But you're asking me to make a comment that is contrary to my findings in my report simply because of what I know now," Sawatsky said.

"Absolutely," Wolch replied.

"That's not fair. . . . We said that because of the evidence we had in 1993," Sawatsky said.

Sawatsky refused to give his opinion, as an expert police officer, on how the teens came up with the same lie.


RCMP investigator didn't suspect Fisher, Milgaard inquiry hears

A retired RCMP inspector says he refused to ask for a warrant to take DNA samples from Larry Fisher in the early 1990s because most of the evidence still pointed to David Milgaard as the killer of Gail Miller.

Murray Sawatsky, who has been testifying in the past week at the inquiry into Milgaard's wrongful conviction, was assigned in 1992 to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by Saskatchewan justice officials in connection with the Milgaard case.

Milgaard spent 23 years behind bars for the 1969 rape and murder of the Saskatoon nursing assistant, crimes he didn't commit. Fisher was convicted of the crimes in 1999 and is now serving a life sentence.

At one point during Sawatsky's investigation, federal justice officials asked him to swear out a warrant to force Fisher to give a DNA sample, but Sawatsky refused.

At the time, he said, more evidence still pointed to Milgaard as the killer rather than to Fisher.

"When our investigation was complete and I saw no evidence that would point me to Mr. Fisher and considerable evidence that would still lead me to believe Mr. Milgaard was responsible, I thought it important to eliminate people in order of importance and certainly Mr. Milgaard seemed to be the best person at that time," he said.

Sawatsky's investigation found no evidence of a coverup, nor did it find evidence that would have exonerated Milgaard.

DNA analysis, conducted in 1997 on orders from the Justice Department, ;eventually led to Milgaard's exoneration and Fisher's conviction.

Sawatsky, who in recent years has been the executive director of the Saskatchewan Police Commission, maintains it's unfair to review his reports in light of the facts as they are known now.

Until the DNA testing proved otherwise, the case against Milgaard remained a compelling one, he said.

The inquiry in Saskatoon, headed by commissioner Edward MacCallum, has been running since Jan. 17, 2005. It's expected to wrap up this fall.


Sask. Justice would have opened Milgaard files

SASKATOON - Saskatchewan Justice would have allowed David Milgaard's lawyer to see the files from the police investigation into the murder of Gail Miller and the prosecutor's case if he had asked for them, the director of public prosecutions told the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry Wednesday.

Murray Brown also said Milgaard would not have needed "a bombshell" in the form of dramatic new information to convince Saskatchewan Justice the police should review the matter.

If police discovered credible evidence of a miscarriage of justice, it would still have been up to the federal minister of justice to take measures to set aside the conviction, Brown said.

The inquiry is now looking into whether the case should have been reopened based on new information that came to light after Milgaard was convicted.

Milgaard was convicted in January 1970, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal dismissed his case in 1971, and later that year the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the matter.

After that, Milgaard never approached the Saskatchewan Justice Department. Instead, it was almost 19 years before his application for mercy was submitted to the Federal Justice Department. He was eventually exonerated in 1997 and another man, Larry Fisher, was convicted of Miller's murder in 1999.

The inquiry has heard that soon after Joyce Milgaard began investigating her son's case in early 1981, Saskatoon police said they would provide access to their investigation files if Saskatchewan Justice said it was OK.

Milgaard's lawyer at the time, Gary Young, told the inquiry he intended to make the request but was let go by Milgaard before he had completed the task. Milgaard switched to lawyer Tony Merchant.

Young did ask the Crown prosecutor Bobs Caldwell to see his files and Caldwell agreed but Young never got around to reviewing those files either.

Young believed Milgaard's only legal recourse was to apply to the federal justice minister for a case review.

Tony Merchant agreed. He also believed Milgaard needed a "bombshell" of new, exonerating information to achieve such a review. Merchant did not seek out the files or read the trial transcripts.

Brown said Wednesday it would have been enough for Milgaard's lawyer to make a credible claim of miscarriage of justice.

"If we were supplied with credible information that we thought raised some questions, we could, yes, have the matter reinvestigated," Brown said.


No reason to reopen Milgaard case in early '90s, official says

A top official with the Saskatchewan Justice Department says the province saw no reason to reopen David Milgaard's case, even after the Supreme Court of Canada ordered in 1992 that he receive a new trial.

Murray Brown, the department's director of public prosecutions, was the province's lawyer in charge of Milgaard's case in the 1980s and 1990s and represented Saskatchewan at the Supreme Court review

Milgaard spent 23 years behind bars for the 1969 murder and rape of Saskatoon nursing aid Gail Miller, although he did not commit the crimes.

Testifying at the inquiry into Milgaard's wrongful conviction on Wednesday, Brown said even after the Supreme Court review, the province saw nothing to indicate Milgaard was innocent.

Brown said he was surprised when an RCMP investigation of a possible coverup by police and prosecutors expanded to include a review of the case against Milgaard.

The resulting RCMP report seemed to point to Milgaard as the most likely suspect, he said.

That remained the position of Brown and the province until DNA testing in 1997 proved conclusively that Milgaard's DNA was not at the crime scene.

The same DNA evidence helped convict Larry Fisher of the crimes, some three decades after they took place. Fisher is now serving a life sentence.

The inquiry in Saskatoon headed by commissioner Edward MacCallum began in January 2005 and is expected to continue for several more weeks.


Media campaign helped Milgaard: Saskatchewan official

Incorrect allegations in news reports about David Milgaard's efforts to have his case reviewed in the early 1990s caused Saskatchewan Justice officials to doubt all of Milgaard's assertions and instead rely on the findings of federal investigators, the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry heard Thursday.

The effects of the false allegations were worsened by the federal government's refusal to comment on them, which left the public with an unbalanced, inaccurate view of the case, said Murray Brown, director of Saskatchewan public prosecutions.

"The no-comment reply simply engenders mistrust. If somebody is making allegations of flagrant misconduct by the police or the prosecution service, the public expects a response and 'no comment' is as good as saying we might have done it," Brown said.

Among the false or mistaken allegations put forward by Milgaard's mother, Joyce Milgaard, and his lawyer, David Asper, as they fought for Milgaard's freedom, were the following: that a double-edged, bone-handled knife had gone missing during the trial, that the Crown prosecutor had withheld a statement by witness Ron Wilson denying knowledge of the murder, that forensic evidence clearing Milgaard was used against him at trial, that the same forensic evidence, semen found near the body, was actually dog urine and that the federal justice department was not acting on Milgaard's application.

The inquiry has heard evidence disproving all of those allegations.

With the false allegations in the news, Brown was skeptical about other new information coming from the Milgaards.

He thought there was little substance to Linda Fisher's suspicion that her ex-husband, Larry Fisher, was Gail Miller's real killer. He doubted Wilson's recantation and discounted witness Albert Cadrain's claim that police put him through hell and mental torture.

"If we believed it was true, we certainly would have done something," he said.

After Milgaard's first application was denied, Milgaard's advocates intensified their media campaign to dispute Justice Minister Kim Campbell's conclusions and attack the fairness, transparency and accountability of the federal process, Brown said.

"The whole administration of justice was getting a black eye out of this," Brown said.

He criticized the news media, saying they reported everything the Milgaard camp said without evaluating it or looking at it objectively.

"Once we saw what the federal investigation revealed, it was fairly clear that most of the media reporting -- in terms of the substance of what was in there -- was more misleading than informative," Brown said.

"A lot of that had to do with the Milgaard camp simply giving them the story and them publishing it.

"All this was was speculation and excited publicity over this whole thing," Brown said.

Brown said he understood the federal department had thoroughly investigated Milgaard's assertion that serial rapist Fisher was the real the killer.

Brown was satisfied that Campbell had reviewed the investigators' findings and determined there was no basis to revisit Milgaard's 1970 murder conviction. Brown was further convinced by the fact Campbell had obtained a legal opinion from William McIntyre, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Milgaard's advocates took the opposite view, saying it was unfair for a judge to make a finding based only on the government's position without hearing from Milgaard's side.

The Milgaards' media campaign succeeded in forcing the government to order a public hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada, Brown said. Without it, the case would have died after Campbell's first denial of the application, he said.

"After all this noise in the news media, after all the fuss that was made over this, it comes down to very little substance. The federal minister's investigators basically refuted every suggestion made by the Milgaard people, mostly in the media," Brown said.

Ironically, the media's incorrect reports helped free an innocent man, despite the careful work of many justice officials that upheld his wrongful conviction.

Saskatchewan Justice refused to reopen the case until 1997, after DNA proved Milgaard was innocent and Fisher was the real killer.

By then, Milgaard had been a free man for five years, since the Supreme Court of Canada had quashed his conviction; but many people, including most justice officials who have testified at the inquiry, still believed he was guilty.


Chief justice thought gov't wanted court to bail it out

SASKATOON -- The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada was unhappy with federal Justice MInister Kim Campbell in 1991 for mishandling the Milgaard case and felt the Supreme Court was being called upon to bail her out, the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry heard Monday.

"We had a meeting early on with the chief justice and he made a couple of comments that indicated that he wasn't happy that this was in the Supreme Court, and he thought the reason it was there was that the federal minister needed to be bailed out," said Murray Brown, director of public prosecutions for the Government of Saskatchewan.

"They were not very happy with the federal government suddenly thrusting this into their calendar. I think the chief justice made it fairly clear that he thought the federal government had mishandled the whole process and this was why the Supreme Court was being asked to bail them out," Brown said.

The inquiry also heard Monday that a retired Supreme Court of Canada judge who advised Campbell on David Milgaard's first, failed application for a case review, was also involved, behind the scenes, in the second application, the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry heard Monday.

A federal government memo that made its way into the commission's files reveals that retired justice William McIntyre attended an Oct. 2, 1991 meeting with federal Justice Minister Campbell and federal justice officials as they reviewed Milgaard's second application.

"William McIntyre has concluded that there is still no reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. He points to the substantial body of evidence on which the conviction is supportable and concludes that the Fisher series of attacks on other women doesn't undermine it," the memo states.

The October memo showed that despite the group's consensus, the federal officials decided there had to be some kind of public hearing on Milgaard's case because of a growing public perception that Milgaard had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice, Brown said.

"The minister's conclusion that no miscarriage of justice had occurred could not be expected to overcome a rising media-fed public doubt about Milgaard's guilt. Some judicial forum should be selected in which to air and dispose of the issues raised by Milgaard," the memo states.

Milgaard's application was not strong enough, on its own merits, to justify a reopening of the case but "they were of the view the minister simply could not deal with it the way she had before," Brown said, referring to Ottawa's refusal to respond to allegations from Milgaard's advocates that there had been wrong doing by police and other justice officials.

The commission's review of the memo is the first public confirmation of McIntyre's findings because the federal government has asserted its constitutional right to refuse to share information about legal advice Campbell received in deciding Milgaard's application in 1991.

Jennifer Cox, who represents the federal minister at the inquiry, told Commissioner Justice Edward MacCallum her client will not oppose the commission's reviewing two documents that were inadvertently given to the Government of Saskatchewan as it prepared for Milgaard's 1992 Supreme Court of Canada review but said the federal government reserves the right to argue how much weight the commissioner should place on the documents in his analysis of the matter.

Murray Brown, director of public prosecutions for Saskatchewan, testified Monday that he was shown a copy of McIntyre's report and allowed to read the conclusions.

McIntyre found there wasn't a strong case for reopening the case, Brown said

"It seemed to me the minister had accepted that advice and her letter of February 1991 (denying Milgaard's first application) pretty much reflected what McIntyre had said," Brown said.

The group discussed Milgaard's evidence that convicted rapist Larry Fisher might have been the real killer and the fact that witness Nichol John never repeated her one-time statement to police that she saw Milgaard stab Gail Miller.

The memo seems to demonstrates the group operated on the assumption Milgaard was guilty.

"It appears (John) has successfully repressed the murder scene she described to police from her conscious mind," it states, referring to John's steadfast claim she could not remember events of the morning of the murder.

Justices of the Supreme Court were unhappy with the federal Justice department for mishandling the matter and felt they were being called upon to bail it out, Brown said.


Top judge not happy with Campbell in Milgaard case, Sask. official says

SASKATOON - The Supreme Court's chief justice was unhappy with then-federal justice minister Kim Campbell in 1991 for mishandling the Milgaard case, the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry heard Monday.

''We had a meeting early on with the Chief Justice Antonio Lamer and he made a couple of comments that indicated that he wasn't happy that this was in the Supreme Court and he thought the reason it was there was that the federal minister needed to be bailed out,'' said Murray Brown, director of public prosecutions for the government of Saskatchewan.

''They were not very happy with the federal government suddenly thrusting this into their calendar. I think the chief justice made it fairly clear that he thought the federal government had mishandled the whole process and this was why the Supreme Court was being asked to bail them out.''

Campbell referred the case to the Supreme Court, which quashed Milgaard's conviction in 1992 - more than 20 years after he'd been convicted of the 1969 rape and murder of Saskatoon nursing aide Gail Miller.

The real killer was Larry Fisher, a fact that was proven with DNA evidence in 1997. He was later convicted of the murder.

Lamer retired from the country's top court in 2000.

The inquiry also heard Monday that a retired Supreme Court judge who advised Campbell on David Milgaard's first, failed application for a case review was also involved, behind the scenes, in the second application.

A federal government memo, that made its way into the commission's files, reveals retired justice William McIntyre attended an Oct. 2, 1991 meeting with Campbell and federal justice officials as they reviewed Milgaard's second application.

''William McIntyre has concluded that there is still no reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. He points to the substantial body of evidence on which the conviction is supportable and concludes that the Fisher series of attacks on other women doesn't undermine it,'' the memo states.

The October memo showed that despite the group's consensus, federal officials decided there had to be some kind of public hearing on Milgaard's case because of growing public doubt about his guilt.

Milgaard's application was not strong enough, on its own merits, to justify reopening the case but ''they were of the view the minister simply could not deal with it the way she had before,'' Brown said, referring to Ottawa's refusal to respond to allegations from Milgaard's advocates that there had been wrongdoing by police and other justice officials.

The commission's review of the memo is the first public confirmation of McIntyre's findings because Ottawa has asserted its constitutional right to refuse to share information about legal advice Campbell received in deciding Milgaard's application in 1991.

The conviction would have stood if not for the renewed media campaign after the first application was denied, Brown said.


Prosecutors thought Milgaard alibi a sham

SASKATOON -- Saskatchewan Justice officials considered David Milgaard's new alibi to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992 "an out and out lie," the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry heard Tuesday.

Milgaard told the Supreme Court that soon after he and two friends arrived in Saskatoon the morning Gail Miller was murdered, in January 1969, they were at a service station to get the car heater fixed around 7 a.m. and he bought chicken soup from a vending machine.

However, Milgaard acknowledged there was no record of his mentioning that stop to the police, in the notes he made before the preliminary hearing detailing his activities that morning or in his application for a case review.


Cover-up allegations by Milgaard team 'corrupt,' official tells inquiry

SASKATOON - David Milgaard's lawyers' use of unfounded cover-up allegations involving a Saskatchewan premier and high-ranking justice officials was ''sleazy, corrupt'' and ''desperate,'' the head of public prosecutions said Wednesday at Milgaard's wrongful conviction inquiry.

Murray Brown was referring to a September 1992 Winnipeg news conference, where Milgaard's mother, Joyce Milgaard, and lawyer Hersh Wolch presented the allegations of a then-unnamed former government file clerk. The clerk claimed Saskatchewan's top justice officials made an early connection between the 1969 murder for which Milgaard had been convicted and the sex crimes of Larry Fisher.

Reporters soon discovered the former clerk, Michael Breckenridge, was not employed with the government during the time he claimed to have delivered Milgaard and Fisher files to meetings between director of public prosecutions, Serge Kujawa, attorney general Roy Romanow and deputy attorney general Ken Lysyk.

''My reaction to the entire Breckenridge stunt is that it was so outrageously dishonest and malicious that we shouldn't even reply to it,'' Brown said Wednesday.

''To suggest that the attorney general and the deputy attorney general and director of prosecutions got together to suppress evidence is just nonsense. EIt suggested a level of desperation that I didn't think existed at that point.

''David Milgaard was out of jail. This was all about grubbing for money,'' Brown said.

"The whole thing was so sleazy and so corrupt, they really had reached a new low."

Joyce Milgaard has said she believed Breckenridge and thought he had obtained the information from a reliable source, even if he hadn't been present at the time of the alleged meetings.

The allegation came months after Milgaard's murder conviction was quashed by the Supreme Court of Canada in April 1992 and he was released after spending 23 years in prison.

The Supreme Court had said Milgaard should have a new trial and that information about Fisher's crimes could affect the findings of a new jury hearing the case against Milgaard.

But the Supreme court did not exonerate Milgaard. Instead it said there was still evidence that a jury might use to implicate Milgaard in murder and there was no proof anyone other than Milgaard had killed Gail Miller.

Soon after, the government of Saskatchewan stayed the charge against Milgaard and said it would not pay him any compensation because he hadn't been declared innocent. The justice minister of the day, Robert Mitchell, said publicly he still thought Milgaard was guilty.

It wasn't until 1997 that DNA evidence proved Milgaard's innocence and triggered the prosecution of Fisher, who was convicted in 1999. That year, the Saskatchewan government paid Milgaard $10 million in compensation.

After the extraordinary allegations, Mitchell referred to the RCMP for an investigation, which found no evidence of wrong doing by police or justice officials.

David Asper, who had represented Milgaard until he was freed, had left the law firm by the time of the news conference.


Saskatoon police 'in shock' over Fisher DNA match: Brown

The Friday in July, 1997, when DNA tests revealed a match between murder victim Gail Miller's clothing and rapist Larry Fisher, the head of appeals for Saskatchewan told Saskatoon police there were reasonable and probable grounds to believe Fisher had killed Miller and he should be arrested and charged with murder.

The Saskatoon police did not arrest Fisher, Murray Brown, now director of public prosecutions, told the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry Thursday.

"The Saskatoon Police Service was in shock. They were having a hard time dealing with those results and they wanted to see the documents from England that established what I told them," Brown said.

The following Monday, Saskatoon police asked then-justice minister John Nilson to refer the investigation to the RCMP.

"It was very quickly becoming apparent that the Saskatoon police service might have some difficulty reinvestigating this since there seemed to be considerable reluctance to accepting the results. The RCMP were the logical choice at that point," Brown said.

That week, Saskatoon police allowed Fisher to leave Saskatoon. He was arrested a few days later in Calgary. He was convicted in 1999 of the 1969 murder, for which Milgaard had spent 23 years in prison.

The police response appeared to be a response to the many negative news stories about police in the previous years, Brown said.

"The publicity came back to bite them because police by that time didn't have just an intellectual investment, they had an emotional one," Brown said.

"Not withstanding I knew there were some people who had a two-offender, two-assault theory, it was my view that whoever raped Gail Miller was the most likely person to have killed her as well," Brown said.

"Once you put Larry Fisher into the mix, in my view, you take David Milgaard out of it. At the very, very least, had Larry Fisher been known as the assailant who raped Gail Miller in 1969, the police would have had no interest in David Milgaard. Any investigation of Albert Cadrain's evidence he saw blood on him, had he been charged with that kind of information, there is no possible way you could convince a jury David Milgaard was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the murder of Gail Miller.

"Any conviction, a court of appeal would overturn it as being unsafe.

"That was the advice I gave to the premier. This establishes that David Milgaard is innocent. Not just, we can't prove the case but he is innocent. He did not kill Gail Miller," Brown said.

Nilson announced the day of the DNA results that Saskatchewan would immediately begin work to compensate Milgaard. He was paid $10 million in 1999.

Also Thursday, Brown was questioned by Milgaard's lawyer, Hersh Wolch, whom Brown has criticized for making unfounded allegations in the media.

The two lawyers have worked on opposite sides of the case since Milgaard fi rst applied in 1988 for a case review.

In a cross-examination that sounded more like a debate, Wolch attempted to establish that reporters had uncharacteristically "championed the cause" of a man in prison because they thought he was innocent.

"You may not care for Dan Lett, but he's a bright guy," Wolch said, referring to a Winnipeg Free Press reporter who covered the Milgaard story extensively, "Well, I thought he was, not to put too fine a point on it, used . . . in respect of disseminating the point of view of the Milgaard camp," Brown said. "Anything you guys said, Dan Lett was more than happy to publish." Brown said reporters likely did believe Milgaard was innocent based on what Milgaard's advocates were saying and in the absence of any response from justice officials.

"But they were correct," Wolch said.

"As it turns out, yes. But on the basis of what they were getting, I disagree that that supported that conclusion. And the Supreme Court seems to have agreed with that," Brown said.

"But they were getting it. Milgaard was innocent and Fisher was guilty," Wolch said.

"It wasn't the factual reporting that was the problem.

It was the editorial comments that you and Joyce Milgaard and David Asper were attaching to that, accusing officials of being corrupt and the (justice) minister (Kim Campbell) of being a co-conspirator," Brown said.

Wolch and Brown also had a lengthy exchange about the their differing interpretation of the meaning of the Supreme Court's decision.


Milgaard team used reporter, inquiry told
FP journalist treated like 'a cheap whore': official

SASKATOON -- A senior Saskatchewan Justice official told an inquiry into the wrongful conviction of David Milgaard that Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dan Lett had been used by Milgaard's case review team like "a cheap whore."

Murray Brown, who is now Saskatchewan director of public prosecution but in 1997 was head of appeals for that province, made the comments when questioned yesterday by Milgaard's lawyer, Hersh Wolch.

Brown told the inquiry that the reluctance of Saskatoon police to accept that someone other than Milgaard was responsible for the 1969 murder of nurse Gail Miller -- even when DNA evidence pointed to another suspect -- was because of the negative publicity directed at the police force.

"The publicity came back to bite (the Milgaard defence team) because (Saskatoon) police by that time didn't have just an intellectual investment, they had an emotional one," Brown said.

Brown was critical of Lett for his extensive coverage of Milgaard's wrongful conviction, telling the inquiry that Lett printed whatever the Milgaard team told him to write.

Brown and Wolch, who have worked on opposite sides of the case since Milgaard's first application in 1988 for a case review, engaged in a cross-examination that sounded more like a debate as Wolch attempted to establish that reporters had uncharacteristically "championed the cause" of a man in prison because they thought he was innocent.

"You may not care for Dan Lett, but he's a bright guy," Wolch said, referring to the reporter who covered the Milgaard story extensively.

"Well, I thought he was, not to put too fine a point on it, used like a cheap whore in respect of disseminating the point of view of the Milgaard camp," Brown said. "Anything you guys said, Dan Lett was more than happy to publish."

Free Press editor Bob Cox said last night that Lett simply reported the facts accurately. Brown's comments revealed a great deal about the prevailing attitude in the Saskatchewan justice system, Cox said.

"It shows an attitude that explains a lot about why Saskatchewan's justice system clung to the erroneous belief that David Milgaard was guilty for such a long time," Cox said.

"The person reporting accurately is likened to a prostitute by someone whose job it is to seek truth and justice.

"Tell me, if an accurate reporter is a cheap whore, what does that make people who imprisoned and kept imprisoned an innocent man?"

Brown told the inquiry reporters likely did believe Milgaard was innocent based on what Milgaard's advocates were saying and in the absence of any response from justice officials.

"But they were correct," Wolch said. "As it turns out, yes. But on the basis of what they were getting, I disagree that that supported that conclusion. And the Supreme Court seems to have agreed with that," Brown said.

"But they were getting it. Milgaard was innocent and Fisher was guilty," Wolch said.

"It wasn't the factual reporting that was the problem. It was the editorial comments that you and Joyce Milgaard and David Asper were attaching to that, accusing officials of being corrupt and the (justice) minister (Kim Campbell) of being a co-conspirator," Brown said.

Brown said that when he told Saskatoon police that DNA evidence identified Larry Fisher as Miller's killer, the police refused to believe what he was saying and let Fisher leave the city.

Brown said the RCMP were asked to take over the case because of the refusal by Saskatoon police to consider that someone other than Milgaard was responsible for Miller's death.

The Saskatchewan government announced in 1997 that it would begin work to compensate Milgaard.

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