A man was killed tonight, after years of speculation of whether or not he was innocent of his charges. I am not completely familiar with the Troy Davis case, but I’ve read what I could. He didn’t have a gun when McPhail was shot. Seven of the nine witnesses recanted on their testimony. There was speculation that authorities attempted to lead witnesses so a conviction could come out as they wanted it to.
As I read more about the case, it reminded me of one that happened here in Canada. Not far from my hometown, actually.
Let me give you a history lesson.
In 1969, David Milgard, Ron Wilson and Nichol John were travelling across Canada. When in Saskatoon, while the friends were picking up another friend, Albert Cadrain, from his family’s home, Saskatoon nursing student Gail Miller, was found dead in a snowbank. Cadrain’s family was renting a room to Larry Fisher. Remember that name, we’ll get back to it.
Milgard was arrested in British Columbia in May of 1969. Tipped off by Cadrain, who mostly wanted the $2,000 reward, he would later testify that he saw Milgard the night of Miller’s murder in bloodstained clothing. Ron and Nichol were also brought in to testify against Milgard. They said they had been with Milgard all day on the day of the murder, but changed testimony for court. Wilson later recanted his testimony, stating that police informed him he was suspected of the crime, and said what he did to alleviate pressure off of himself. Milgard was sentenced to life in prison on January 31, 1970, exactly one year after Gail Miller’s death.
Milgard appealed his conviction several times, but was rejected by a justice system unwilling to accept that a convicted criminal could not accept his guilt. By 1988 he submitted a formal application for appeal, but was not completed until 1991. He was eventually released, but his application for Conviction Review was rejected in 1996 by Parliament.
Before Milgard’s release, a question was issued to the Supreme Court of Canada, asking to set aside Milgard’s conviction. An order by then Minister of Justice Kim Campbell was issued pursuant to section 690 of the Canadian Criminal Code. However, the Government of Saskatchewan would not allow for a new trial and issued a stay of proceedings. However, a lab analyses of a semen sample from the murder scene was performed in the United Kingdom, and found that it could not originate from Milgard. Eventually, Larry Fisher was arrested and charged with the murder of Gail Miller.
For David Milgard, his life came back on track. But it might not have. Canada in 1969 still had the death penalty. Had the Crown asked for the death sentence in the Milgard case, he might not have had the same life he now leads. Fortunately, three years before the federal government removed the death penalty from all but one set of offenses, that being killing an on duty police officer.
From Amnesty International’s website, a history of Capital Punishment in Canada:
Between 1892 and 1961, the penalty for all murders in Canada was death by hanging. In 1961, an act of Parliament divided murder into capital and non-capital categories.
The first private bill calling for abolition of the death penalty was introduced in 1914. In 1954, rape was removed from capital offenses. In 1956, a parliamentary committee recommended exempting juvenile offenders from the death penalty, providing expert counsel at all stages of the proceedings and the institution of mandatory appeals in capital cases.
Between 1954 and 1963, a private member’s bill was introduced in each parliamentary session calling for abolition of the death penalty. The first major debate on the issue took place in the House of Commons in 1966. Following a lengthy and emotional debate, the government introduced and passed Bill C-168, which limited capital murder to the killing of on-duty police officers and prison guards.
On July 14, 1976 the House of Commons passed Bill C-84 on a free vote, abolishing capital punishment from the Canadian Criminal Code and replacing it with a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole for 25 years for all first-degree murders.
Canada retained the death penalty for a number of military offenses, including treason and mutiny. No Canadian soldier has been charged with or executed for a capital crime in over 50 years. On 10 December, 1998, the last vestiges of the death penalty in Canada were abolished with the passage of legislation removing all references to capital punishment from the National Defence Act.
There were 710 executions in Canada between 1867 and 1962. The last execution was carried out on December 11, 1962 when 2 men were hanged in Toronto, Ontario. Between 1879 and 1960, there were 438 commutations of death sentences.
Contrary to predictions, Canada’s murder rate did not increase. It actually went down. Regarding convictions, the degree of first degree murder convictions did rise from 10% to 20%. This is often sited with juries not having to contend with life and death situations of the accused.
But had the fight not occurred to abolish the death penalty, men and women like David Milgard would not be here today.
Years ago I wrote a paper for high school on why the death penalty was wrong. Why kill people, who kill people, to show that killing people is wrong? It’s not even the case of exacting justice for the family. Often, in Canada, the family of the victim does not want to see the accused executed for their crime. It won’t bring the murder victim back. But maybe that’s the difference in culture that runs along the 49th Parallel.
What if the evidence comes out about Troy Davis? What happens if suddenly, it is proven that he was wrongfully accused? What happens if the real killer is found? Who pays for Troy’s murder?
(via ladyfabulous)Source: timholtorf
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