Jan. 15, 2003. 05:24 AM
Flash: The missing women  
Mystery to lift (Jan. 13)  
Shedding some light on 'Willy' (Jan. 10)  
Pickton faces four more charges (Oct. 2)  
Another missing woman's DNA found (Sept. 17)  
List of missing women grows (Mar. 29)  
Investigation could last year: police (Mar. 21)  
B.C. watchdog won't probe case (Mar. 19)  

Pickton lawyers want some reporters banned


PORT COQUITLAM, B.C.—Lawyers for the man accused of being Canada's worst serial killer are expected to ask a judge today to bar some reporters from the courtroom after what they say are "clear and obvious" breaches of a sweeping publication ban.

In reiterating concerns about the ability of pig farmer Robert William Pickton to get a fair trial, defence lawyer Peter Ritchie said some aspects of the case against his client have been made public, jeopardizing the impartiality of potential future jurors.

"Both Canadian media and foreign media, specifically American media, are ignoring the bans on publication," Ritchie told provincial court Judge David Stone here yesterday.

Pickton, 53, is charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder in connection with some of the 61 women — predominantly drug addicts and prostitutes — missing from Vancouver's downtown eastside. The case has attracted international media attention as the list of alleged victims has grown and police continue combing his farm.

On Monday, a preliminary hearing to see if there's enough evidence for Pickton to stand trial began hearing evidence, which is the subject of a publication ban. Ritchie unsuccessfully argued last month that the preliminary hearing should be closed because it would involve the presentation of evidence of "an exceedingly grim nature."

By yesterday afternoon, he was back before Stone with copies of newspaper articles and transcripts of broadcast stories from the first day of the presenting of evidence.

Ritchie urged Stone to find some reporters in contempt of court, which the judge refused. He then asked that some be criminally charged, which did not seem to interest the judge.

Ritchie then called on Stone to eject certain media representatives and toughen his ban.

Ritchie once again expressed his view that the entire proceeding should be closed to reporters, victims' families and the general public, a suggestion Stone still rejects.

"I can say categorically that I am not excluding the public, victims' families, from sitting in," the judge said before adjourning court for the day so lawyers could discuss the issue.

The judge expects to get a list of specific instructions that the lawyers want him to outline when court resumes this morning in this suburb 35 kilometres east of Vancouver.

Ritchie didn't name Canadian media who he felt breached the ban but specifically cited Associated Press from the United States and The Guardian newspaper in England.

A spokesperson for AP last night rejected Ritchie's accusations.

"We believe we have done our best to avoid a confrontation with the court," David Tomlin, assistant to the president of AP said from New York. "The story was not transmitted to the Canadian Press, our exclusive distributor in Canada.

"All other transmissions were accompanied by an editor's note calling attention to the publication ban."

There are precedents for American media being banned from Canadian courtrooms.

In the early 1990s in Ontario, Buffalo newspapers and television stations defied Canadian court orders involving the publicizing of evidence in the case of Paul Bernardo and his wife, Karla Homolka, in the murders of schoolgirls Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.

American media were eventually banned from Homolka's manslaughter trial over the judge's fear that if details were made public it would hurt the chances of finding impartial jurors for the case against Bernardo.

Earlier yesterday, lawyers for both the crown and defence raised concerns over a report on the Internet site of the Seattle Times newspaper, focusing on Monday's evidence.

The Web site story referred to the circumstances around a videotape and details about Pickton's upbringing.

Canadian media outlets have said they plan to respect the publication ban and Seattle television stations, which broadcast into the Vancouver area, are having their stories on Pickton blacked out north of the border. But Americans say Web sites don't count.

Crown Attorney Mike Petrie said that while "most of the evidence brought forward so far was not deemed to be prejudicial" it appeared clear the publication ban was breached.

Adrian Brooks, another of Pickton's lawyers, told Stone the defence was not only concerned by publication of the Seattle Times story but also by Canadian media referring audiences to the fact that details of the case could be found on U.S. and foreign Web sites.

"The concerns are always that of a fair trial," Brooks told reporters.

"We want to be able to pick up a jury that has an open mind about everything they're going to hear at trial."

Officials with the Seattle Times yesterday declined to make a statement about their story.

Stone appeared sympathetic to the concerns of the lawyers.

"If the American media doesn't live up to the spirit of the ban then the option is banning the American media from court," he said in setting aside today to deal with the issue.

Pickton paid close attention in court yesterday as the evidence continued to be presented.

He followed along closely in a binder full of transcripts of tape recordings sitting on his lap, occasionally mouthing the words he read on the page or writing notes on a yellow legal pad.

Additional articles by Daniel Girard

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Updated: August 21, 2016