CALGARY, Alta. – A private funeral was held for David Edgar Milgaard at the Alliance Church in Calgary, Alta., on Thursday with about 50 people attending.
Milgaard – who was the victim of one of Canada’s most notorious miscarriages of justice – died May 15 in a Calgary hospital at the age of 69 from natural causes.
Milgaard spent 23 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
In 1969 he was arrested when he was only 16. In 1970, at the age of 17, he was wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering Saskatoon nurse Gail Miller and sent to Canada’s toughest prisons for life.
He spent almost 23 years behind bars before he was released in 1992 and exonerated by DNA evidence in 1997. That same DNA evidence linked serial rapist Larry Fisher from North Battleford to Miller’s brutal murder. Fisher was arrested in Calgary in July 1997 and convicted November 1999.
In 2020 – 50 years after Milgaard’s wrongful conviction - the University of Manitoba announced they were presenting him with an Honorary Doctor of Law degree. On June 8, 2022 at 9:30 a.m., David Milgaard was to have taken the stage beside his long-time friend, David Asper, Q.C., at the University of Manitoba’s Convocation ceremony. Together, they were to receive honorary Doctor of Laws degrees that had been announced in January, 2020, but due to the pandemic, could not be officially awarded. The moment would have honoured their respective remarkable lifetime achievements. Instead, Asper, former Acting Dean of the Faculty of Law (2020-21), will stand alone on the stage facing Class of 2022 Juris Doctor students, accept his own – plus his friend’s award posthumously, and pass on Milgaard’s legacy of hope for the wrongfully convicted, to the next generation of lawyers.
Milgaard was the subject of three books (When Justice Fails: The David Milgaard Story; Real Justice: Sentenced to Life at Seventeen; and A Mother’s Story: The Fight to Free My Son David Milgaard) as well as three movies (The David Milgaard Story; the docudrama Milgaard; and Crime Stories). He is the subject of the song Wheat Kings by the Tragically Hip in their 1992 album. Also, Canadian artist David Collier depicted Milgaard’s story in his 2000 comic book Surviving Saskatoon.
Innocence Canada lawyer James Lockyer said the eulogy at the private service. Senator Kim Pate was also in attendance.
At the time of his death Milgaard lived in Calgary, Alta., and worked as a community support worker. He was married to Cristina and the couple had two children, Robert and Julia.
Milgaard's brother Chris Milgaard declined to provide a comment, saying he is remembering him at the moment.