to decide would be whether David's misfiring brain caused him to kill his wife, or whether he did so of his own volition.
Victims and their families often find themselves aligned with prosecutors in a quest for justice. This was not one of those cases.
Just weeks after the killing, Paul McMurray stood before the court representing David
Miller. He had been hired by Milne and Anderson. It was admitted that David had stabbed his wife. But whether he could form the intent necessary for a murder charge to stick was still unclear. For the next two and a half years, McMurray would work to have Miller spend the rest of his life not in a prison, but in a forensic hospital.
The family's move to defend, rather than condemn, Susan's killer didn't sit well with everyone. While neighbours refused to judge, others were more willing to cast blame.
"I suppose you hear about something horrific and for most people, the thought that comes to your mind is, 'I hope they throw the book at that guy,'" said Milne.
But Anderson and Milne both say they felt no anger towards David for what he did.
"They were both gone from us," Anderson said.
Yet David was still alive. Is still alive. Milne and Anderson knew the killing showed David to be dangerous and in need of confinement. But neither thought their in-law deserved to decay and die in prison alongside hardened criminals.
"This is a guy who had never been in trouble," Milne said. "He has to be somewhere in custody because he did something horrible." But, she added, "he wouldn't last in prison. .. At the end of the day, the best thing that we could hope for was that he not be held in prison [but] that he be held in a forensic hospital."
No fans of our court system Before he could stand trial for murder, David first had to be judged fit to stand trial. To be fit, a defendant must be able to participate in his or her own defence, by making decisions and instructing counsel. The defendant's mental state at the time of his or her crime is not a factor.
It's a relatively low bar to meet and in October 2011, a judge ruled David, while sick, was capable of standing trial.
Looking back, Milne and Anderson have few good words to say about the criminal justice system. They call it inflexible, cold, inefficient and political.
"Is this a man who knew what was going on? Clearly not," Milne said.
David's legal journey was also agonizingly slow. Milne and Anderson would repeatedly show up to court, only to be told a hearing was delayed until another date. It was torture, but hardly rare in B.C. "When you're going to court to participate in something, there's a
whole psychological process that takes place before you go," Milne said. "When you look at the timewasting factor, it doesn't appear to ever occur to the people in that system, how does it impact the people who are here to do this, to hear this, to speak to this, whatever."
But those delays also allowed McMurray to retry the fitness issue.
In the months after he was declared fit to stand trial, David's condition deteriorated. Last spring, a month before his trial was set to begin, more testing was ordered.
Those tests showed David could understand neither the legal process, nor any potential sentence. He couldn't communicate with counsel or remember what happened the previous day. Two weeks before the scheduled start of the trial, David was ruled unfit to stand trial and sent back to the Port Coquitlam forensic psychiatric hospital where he was being held.
It was, for all practical purposes, the end of David Miller's court saga. He is scheduled to appear in February of 2014 in order to determine whether he is still unfit. But Huntington's patients do not get better. There are no miraculous recoveries.
More than their share of tragedy Survival is a game of chance. Through medicine and personal actions, we can improve our odds. But even loaded dice sometimes come up snake eyes. One loss means you can lose twice means you can lose three times.
Milne and Anderson know that all too well. In a decade, Milne lost her father, uncle, older sister and-on Boxing Day of 2009-both her younger sister and brother-in-law.
"This is a family," Anderson said, "who after the last 11 years had had more than its share of tragedy."
And yet, the two women sit in the Sardis home they now share with Lee and marvel at how not-messedup their lives currently are. Things
feel normal. Or at least normal-ish. Life goes on.
And that's why they're sitting talking to a reporter.
"To see the brilliance of the blue sky and have happiness in your life, you have to forgive," Milne said.
Neither woman is religious. They don't blame-and hence can't forgive-either David or God. But the game of chance that blesses and robs, that roll of a dice that leads to Huntington's disease and everything it brings with it-that they can forgive. That they must forgive. "There isn't a person to forgive, so you have to forgive the circumstances," Milne said. "You have to get past the 'Why us? Why our family? Why have we had so much tragedy?' "Whether it's a person you have to forgive or the circumstances you have to forgive, you have to find a way to do it. Otherwise it can take over your life."
His condition deteriorating David Miller will likely die in a forensic hospital. Milne and Anderson have only seen him during court appearances. Lee has met with him just once and it seems unlikely that she will do so again; his condition has continued to deteriorate and won't stop until he dies.
Anderson said the family doesn't avoid talking about those they've lost, including David and Susan.
"It's absolutely important to include the funny things and the difficult times," Anderson said. "We keep them with us.
"I still look at them together," she said.
Shocking new findings on disease While British Columbia is blessed with one of the world's leading Huntington's disease research facilities, awareness of the disease is lacking in other areas of the health system.
That may have to change, especially since a soon-to-be-released study shows that the disease is far more prevalent in British Columbia than previously thought. That story in part three.
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