Murder investigation creates high publicity and a strong need to find a culprit, sometimes missing the evidence that someone else committed the crime.

Almost everyone in the criminal justice system would wish that discussion of the Salem Witch Trials would go away because the result was so embarrassingly ugly. In the late 1600s officials in the area of Salem Massachusetts did not know how to deal with an outbreak of “craziness” engulfing the local townspeople. So they blamed it on witchcraft and assassinated a couple dozen female “witches”. The reasoning by local judges was extraordinary and criminal, but nothing could be done. Fast forward 350 years and many believe we have solved that problem. But that is not the case.

A number of high publicity murder cases have been re-opened by a few diligent angels resulting in the overturning of murder convictions here in Canada. Milgaard, Truscott, Marshall and Morin, to name a few. Below the tip of this pyramid lie a much larger number of less prominent convictions that have never seen the cover of any newspaper or presented in any TV documentary.

As much as we love to watch Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Jane Marple, we fail to recognize the reality that, in far too many ugly instances, society does a very poor job at catching the correct criminal.

This is why new proposed Canadian legislation called “Milgaard’s Law” (Bill C-40) is so greatly needed. Lawyer James Lockyer was one of those who reportedly helped draft the bill and he was instrumental in the defenses of many of those prominent convictions that were overturned.

Having been involved as a expert witness in a number of less publicized, but ugly, cases, I strongly support the push towards enacting this important piece of legislation. It will not solve the problem that Salem lawyers and judges exist, but it will throw some cold water on this uncontrolled inferno.