Court postpones start of preliminary hearing for accused serial killer

Canadian Press

Monday, November 04, 2002

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. (CP) - There must be no more delays, a judge said Monday as he postponed the preliminary hearing of accused serial killer Robert Pickton until next week to give his lawyer time to try to force the province to pay for his defence.

(CP /Chuck Stoody)

Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn is among the 63 missing women, talks to media after a preliminary hearing for accused serial killer Robert Pickton was put off until next week.

(CP /Chuck Stoody)

"I'm saying we will proceed one way or another," said provincial court Judge David Stone. "If Mr. Pickton has no counsel the court will do its best to assist him . . .." At the request of lawyer Peter Ritchie, Stone granted the adjournment until Nov. 12.

Pickton, who hadn't been in court in person since shortly after his arrest in February, sat with his legs crossed and his arms folded across his chest in a small enclosure of bullet-proof glass in the corner of the courtroom.

He nodded his head as Ritchie told Stone that his client wants to get on with the case.

"It's most regrettable this matter could not proceed. He wished this matter to proceed today," Ritchie told the judge.

The 52-year-old pig farmer is charged with the first-degree murders of 15 of 63 women who have disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

Although just about two metres from where some of the families and friends of missing women sat in the public gallery, Pickton did not look at the public gallery during his court appearance.

In the afternoon hearing in Vancouver, Pickton again appeared via video-link.

Ritchie has withdrawn as Pickton's lawyer in a dispute with the Attorney General's Ministry over funding of the defence.

He still represents Pickton in his application to the B.C. Supreme Court for funding and he has continued to appear in the Port Coquitlam hearings as a "friend of the court," saying Pickton cannot represent himself.

Ritchie told the B.C. Supreme Court that he has received hate calls over his decision to represent Pickton in what police have deemed the largest serial killing investigation in Canada.

"It's quite troubling," he told Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm, who will decide the funding issue.

The defence wants legal aid for six lawyers.

Ritchie has rejected an offer by the ministry, calling evidence Monday afternoon that the fees of $150 an hour for himself and $72 an hour for junior lawyers were too low.

He has proposed a top rate of $200 an hour.

The so-called Rowbotham application was to continue Tuesday afternoon in a closed courtroom. Media and public access were to be curbed while the Crown outlines its case against Pickton and Ritchie responds.

Ritchie said he expects the funding issue to be resolved by the higher court by the end of the week but he will still be unable to proceed with the preliminary hearing next Tuesday.

"We can't be prepared for that," Ritchie said outside the court, pointing out that the last four counts of murder were added just four weeks ago.

Crown counsel Mike Petrie expressed concern that the hearing will not get under way for some time.

"Our position has been that for the public interest, the court services interest and the Crown interest we would like to see the matter proceed as quickly as possible."

The adjournment was expected but at least one family drove from Edmonton expecting the preliminary to get under way, according to Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn is one of the missing women.

Crey said he was glad that the judge wants the hearing to get under way.

He said the public jousting between Pickton and the Attorney General's Ministry has been intolerable and the hearing should start next Tuesday.

"Justice demands it. The memory of these women demands it," he said, adding that the public demands it as well.

Crey said he will be back in court, even if it means hearing gruesome details of what the Crown believes happened.

"I'm prepared to do that because of the memory of these women and also because I expect that some time in the near future the police will have information for me and my family about the disappearance of my sister," he said.

 Copyright  2002 The Canadian Press



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Updated: August 21, 2016