Pre-trial hearings resume in case of accused serial killer Robert Pickton

Greg Joyce
Canadian Press

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CP) - Crown and defence lawyers involved in the case of accused serial killer Robert Pickton returned to court Monday to begin several weeks of pre-trial hearings in the case.

Crown spokesman Stan Lowe said outside court that when this segment of hearings is finished, the court would turn its attention to formally fixing a date for the start of hearings to determine what evidence can be put before a jury. The trial, which would begin after that, won't likely start until next spring or fall.

Pickton, 55, is accused of killing more than two dozen women, mostly drug-addicted prostitutes, from Vancouver's seedy Downtown Eastside. More than 60 have disappeared from the neighbourhood since the early 1980s.

Peter Ritchie, the lead lawyer on Pickton's defence team, said outside court that the defence is still seeking more material from the Crown to help it prepare its defence.

To illustrate the volumes of material involved in the case, Ritchie said the defence has been given about 50,000 pages of material in the last two months.

"There's so much of it to go through," he said.

As he has for many court appearances since his arrest, Pickton appeared via a videolink in the courtroom. He has not yet formally pleaded to the charges or elected whether to be tried by jury or judge alone.

Earlier this year, Justice James Williams of B.C. Supreme Court rejected a bid by the accused's defence to effectively seal the courtroom for hearings.

Williams said a section of the Criminal Code that spells out the scope of publication bans in pre-trial hearings is sufficient even to deal with defence fears about Internet publication of what's heard in court.

Pickton's defence team worried widespread media interest in the case, especially from foreign news organizations, would prompt widespread dissemination of evidence discussed in pre-trial hearings.

In June, the number of first-degree murder charges facing Pickton was increased to 27 from 15.

Seven of the charges arose from evidence at Pickton's preliminary hearing in 2003. The other five charges stem from evidence developed since the hearing.

 The Canadian Press 2005



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