Friday, September 26, 2008

Flailing with whitewash

The voluminous report of the David Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry is now out. Justice Edward MacCallum blames--why, Milgaard's mother and his supporters.

Even with Milgaard's innocence now established beyond any doubt, and his receipt of a $10 million award for the 23 years of his life that he spent in prison for a crime he didn't commit, the "justice" system still can't resist one last futile whitewashing attempt. The Milgaard family and supporters made "false and unfounded" allegations, he says. But the police and the courts merely made "misfortunate and regrettable mistakes." Milgaard's mother Joyce is in part to blame for "delays" in springing him, says the good Justice MacCallum, as though Milgaard would have been released anyway, and sooner, by the officials who put him away in the first place.

Unsurprisingly, the judge found that publicity, not process, got the review started that ultimately led to Milgaard's false conviction being overturned. But he's resentful about it, as though there would have been any "process" otherwise. "[M]uch of the information put forward by the Milgaards and reported in the media was inflammatory, inaccurate and misleading,” said the learned judge. If so, it got a job done that wouldn't otherwise have been undertaken.

MacCallum's clear intention was to exonerate justice officials of all blame in this affair, officials who, he says, were "unfairly hurt" by the successful release campaign. Joyce Milgaard had the nerve to "spend time pursuing leads that were without merit"--unlike, we assume, the police who railroaded Milgaard into prison in the first place. But perhaps the Milgaard family and allies were simply incompetent, he graciously concedes:
“The difficult task faced by Milgaard and his supporters was simply beyond their means and abilities,” said MacCallum.

The judge assures us that justice officials acted in "good faith" and were
“in compliance with the standards of the day.” Yet he admits that the jury in Milgaard's trial was allowed to hear inadmissible evidence, and the judge in the case acted like a bully, rebuking a witness for crying.

"The combination of legal error, and impatience probably contributed to the wrongful conviction," said MacCallum. Yet according to him it's Milgaard's supporters who are at fault, for going to bat with a will on behalf of a wrongfully convicted man whose best years went up in smoke, and whose family has suffered grievously as a result. The system, in the person of
Justice Edward MacCallum, just couldn't resist taking one last swipe at the victims of a gross miscarriage of justice. A complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council, anyone?

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