Problems That Led to the Wrongful Conviction of David Milgaard Essay

Problems That Led to the Wrongful Conviction of David Milgaard Essay

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How to appropriately and fairly carry out criminal justice matters is something that every country struggles with. A major reason for this struggle is the fallibility of the justice system. It is acceptable to concede that the possibility of human error in every case and investigation may lead to a wrongful conviction. In the case of David Milgaard, however, Canada's Criminal Justice System not only erred, but failed grievously, resulting in millions of dollars wasted, in a loss of public confidence in the system, and most tragically, in the robbery of two decades of one man's life. Factors including, but not limited to, the social context at the time of the crime, the social perception of deviance, the influence of the media, and the misconduct of investigating police and prosecution played a substantial role in the subsequent miscarriage of justice.

Much of society mistakenly interchanges the two concepts of crime and deviance, assuming that they are one in the same. "A crime is what the law proclaims it to be, and is an act punishable by law" (Winterdyk 9). Deviance, on the other hand, is a contested concept; it can be defined as differing from a norm or accepted standard of society (dictionary.com). Deviance involves acts that fluctuate from social norms; although such actions can be, they are not necessarily against the law (Winterdyk 9).

Society often constructs views, and perceives certain individuals or groups as deviants and as threats to established moral standards and values. Perfectly exemplifying such views can be seen in the wrongful conviction of seventeen-year-old hippie, David Milgaard, in 1969, for the rape and murder of Gail Miller. Then, as now, teenagers and especially hippies are seen as limina...


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...for wrongfully convicted and jailed citizens.

There were three main issues behind the wrongful conviction of David Milgaard, each playing their own role in the ruling. Pre-existing views and perceptions of deviance placed Milgaard among the socially marginalized, making him an easy target for police and public allegations. The broadcast media had a huge impact on public awareness and police actions, presenting a problem with jury discrimination and witness testimony. Finally, and perhaps most inexcusably, misconduct on the part of the Canadian Criminal Justice System in both the investigation and prosecution of the case caused the trial to end in a guilty verdict. If any or all of these factors were more closely investigated or realized at the time, David Milgaard, may not have lost 23 years of his life and this senseless tragedy could have been prevented.

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