Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 04:08 pm
Donald Marshall Jr.

Donald Marshall, Jr. (13 September 1953 " 6 August 2009) was a Mi'kmaq man who was wrongly convicted of murder. The case inspired a number of disturbing questions about the fairness of the Canadian justice system, especially given that Marshall was an Aboriginal; as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation put it, "The name Donald Marshall is almost synonymous with 'wrongful conviction' and the fight for native justice in Canada." The case inspired the book and film, Justice Denied. His father, Donald Marshall, Sr., was grand chief of the Mi'kmaq Nation at the time.

Marshall died August 6, 2009 in Sydney, Nova Scotia, from complications of a 2003 lung transplant.[3]

Wrongful conviction

Marshall was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering acquaintance Sandy Seale in 1971. Marshall (age 17) and Seale (age 17) had been walking around Sydney, Nova Scotia's Wentworth Park during the late evening. They confronted and attempted to rob Roy Ebsary, an older man they encountered in the park. A short scuffle occurred and Seale fell mortally wounded by a knife blow which Ebsary delivered. Ebsary admitted that he had stabbed Seale but then lied about his role to the police who immediately focused on Marshall, who was 'known to them' from previous incidents. Police speculated that Marshall, in a rage for some reason, had murdered Seale. From the beginning, the system seemed determined to prove that Marshall was guilty.

Marshall spent 11 years in jail before being acquitted by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in 1983. A witness came forward to say he had seen another man stab Seale, and several prior witness statements pinpointing Marshall were recanted. In this appeal which acquitted him of the previous murder charge, Marshall was assumed to have lied in his first trial about his and Seale's activities on the night of Seale's death. The accusation was that he and Seale had actually approached Ebsary with the intention of robbing him and they were in the park that night. Ebsary was subsequently tried and convicted of manslaughter. When Marshall's conviction was overturned, the presiding judge placed some blame on Marshall for the miscarriage of justice, calling him "the author of his own misfortune." This was viewed as a "serious and fundamental error" by the Royal Commission report. Anne Derrick, Q.C., well-known social justice advocate lawyer, worked as Marshall's counsel, and Order of Canada recipient Clayton Ruby was co-counsel for Marshall, along with Anne Derrick, during the 1989 Royal Commission on Marshall's prosecution.

The Crown Attorney's failure to provide full disclosure (contradictory and coerced statements by witnesses, because they believed the evidence not provided had no bearing in the case) brought about changes in the Canadian rules of evidence regarding disclosure. The prosecution must provide full disclosure without determination on what may be useful to the defence (that is the defence's duty to decide). Now with this rule, all evidence collected by the prosecution and the defence must be shared among them both.


Donald Marshall Jr. spent 11 years imprisoned, from 1972 to 1983. He was imprisoned just over half the time of David Milgaard, another Canadian wrongfully convicted. Milgaard was compensated 10 million CAD while Marshall was compensated about 200,000 CAD and put on a monthly stipend for the rest of his life.

In response, a Royal Commission was formed to investigate what had caused the miscarriage of justice; this led to an influential case on judicial independence in Canada, Mackeigan v. Hickman.

Fishing rights battle

Subsequently, Marshall reached prominence again as the primary petitioner in the landmark Supreme Court of Canada case of R. v. Marshall [1999] 3 SCR 45 regarding native fishing rights.

2006 arrest

Marshall was arrested on January 2, 2006 and charged with attempted murder for allegedly attempting to run over a man with his car after a New Year's Eve party. The charges were dropped after both men agreed to participate in a healing circle. Jr.
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Merry Andrew
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 04:13 pm
Thank you for sharing that, dj.
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Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 04:31 pm
His position in the group of folks who were wrongfully convicted in Canada is important, but I think his role in the aboriginal rights case was vital.

I'm saddened that any portion of his life had to be spent in prison - but the courage of his convictions was incredible.

As It Happens will be featuring the things Mr. Marshall accomplished in their programming tonight.
Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 05:36 pm
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Reply Thu 6 Aug, 2009 07:20 pm
R.I.P David.
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Reply Fri 7 Aug, 2009 10:29 am
I would like to amend my statement above...

R.I.P Donald.
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Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 08:34 am
My prayers go to Donald's family. Donald, may the great spirit guide you on your spirit journey.

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