It's law victory No. 2 for battling Marshall

Calgary Herald
Saturday, September 18, 1999

OTTAWA. Donald Marshall Jr. fought the law twice. On Friday, he won for the second time.

It took the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq 19 years to be exonerated after being falsely convicted of murder in 1971. Six years ago, after being charged for fishing illegally on Mi'kmaq land, he decided to fight another uphill battle, this time for the treaty rights of his people.

Marshall, who celebrated his 46th birthday this week, began a life sentence for murder in 1971 when was 17. He was released 11 years later when a witness came forward to say he had seen another man stab black teenager Sandy Seale in a Sydney, N. S., park on May 28, 1971.

Marshall had said all along that both he and Seale had been attacked by the same person who had lunged at them uttering racist insults. Police said they had caught Marshall in several lies and didn't believe the story about a third man. They didn't check it out.

A 1989 Royal Commission into Marshall's case damned the Nova Scotia legal system and said young Marshall had been the victim of incompetence fuelled by racism.

''The criminal justice system failed Donald Marshall Jr. at virtually every turn, from his arrest and wrongful conviction for murder in 1971 up to, and even beyond, his acquittal by the Court of Appeal in 1983,'' said the report.

After Friday's victorious Supreme Court ruling, the reticent, soft-spoken Marshall was praised for his fortitude and resourcefulness.

Marshall, reluctantly back in front of the TV cameras, said simply that it had been another long struggle he could have done without.

''At times I almost gave up,'' he said. ''I never thought I'd be in the spotlight again. I've dealt with the Supreme Court twice already and I hope to God I don't have to do it again. I'm just glad it's over with.''

Marshall was compensated for his wrongful imprisonment. He got $300,000 up front and will receive a monthly payment for life.

Anne Derrick, Marshall's lawyer during the dark days of his first fight for justice, said Friday that her former client has no enthusiasm for being entangled in the legal system and loathes the limelight.

''Junior is a shy man,'' she said, ''but he is a loyal person. Fighting this treaty case wasn't without personal cost but he persisted because he believed in the principle. I admire him an awful lot.''

Marshall said he just wants to lead a normal life.

''I don't want to see the Supreme Court of Canada again,'' he said.