Accused serial killer Robert Picktonís lawyers reach defence funding deal

Canadian Press

Thursday, January 09, 2003

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. (CP) - The preliminary hearing for Canada's worst accused serial killer will be long, beginning Monday and perhaps extending through the summer, Crown and defence lawyers suggested Thursday.

CREDIT: (CP /Jane Solsak)

This is an artist's drawing of accused serial killer Robert Pickton as he appeared in court in Port Coquitlam, B.C. Thursday, (CP / Jane Wolsak)

The Crown and defence were in provincial court for the final hearing on funding and evidence disclosure matters before the lengthy preliminary hearing for Robert Pickton begins. Crown prosecutor Michael Petrie told Judge David Stone that court time had been set from Monday until May 1 for the "first block" of the hearing, after which additional time will have to be arranged for the duration of the proceedings.

Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer, is charged with killing 15 women who are among 61 identified as missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Outside court, Petrie couldn't say whether the hearing would extend through the summer or take a break and then resume in the autumn.

The trial will almost certainly not begin until early 2004.

Since Pickton has been in custody for almost 11 months, Petrie said he is pleased to begin the preliminary hearing, conducted under an obligatory publication ban.

"We from the Crown side are pleased to get the case going," he told reporters.

Marilyn Sandford, one of Pickton's lawyers, said defence lawyers are used to long court hearings.

"I don't know about incredibly lengthy when you consider the number of counts that we're facing," she said outside court.'

"There are a lot of lengthy matters in the courts that we as defence lawyers are quite used to spending months at a time in preliminary hearings. This is nothing out of the ordinary as far as length goes."

Sanford said "it may very well be" finished by summer.

Meantime, Sandford also told the judge that the defence team had reached an agreement with the B.C. government on taxpayers' funding for Pickton's defence.

She declined to give details of the money involved but suggested the defence is pleased to concentrate now on the evidence. The defence had reached an interim agreement on funding late last year but had not agreed on finals terms.

"We're just happy to have it put behind us and to move on and to have the resources we need and the staff we need to do a proper job on the defence," said Sandford.

While there are four lawyers now who have appeared in court on behalf of Pickton, including lead lawyer Peter Ritchie, Sandford suggested they might need to hire more lawyers later.

Petrie told the court he expects the first month will be taken up with the playing of tape recordings, although some witnesses will be called.

The preliminary hearing later will move into evidence regarding searches and seizure of evidence at the farm owned by Pickton and his brother.

Sandford also indicated the defence is making progress in efforts to receive disclosure materials from the Crown, including witness statements, forensic reports and wiretap transcripts.

© Copyright  2003 The Canadian Press

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