Intense interest in Pickton trial declines markedly after first day

Greg Joyce
Canadian Press

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CP) - The second day of the long-awaited trial of accused serial killer Robert Pickton lacked the level of intense interest that surrounded the case a day earlier.

The media and public interest so evident on the opening day had almost disappeared completely on Tuesday.

Pickton, 56, is facing first-degree murder charges in the disappearance of 27 women, mostly sex-trade workers, from Vancouver's drug-riddled Downtown Eastside.

On Monday, not-guilty pleas were entered on the 27 charges in B.C. Supreme Court with the main courtroom and an overflow room next door filled to capacity.

But as the second day of the trial began under a strict publication ban, most of the media throng had disappeared along with the TV satellite trucks. About seven reporters, most of them from the print media, were in court Tuesday along with two artists.

The main courtroom, which seats 50, was about two-thirds full while the overflow courtroom, with a capacity of 72, was virtually empty.

Crown spokesman Stan Lowe was not surprised.

"It was to be expected," said Lowe. "It's because of the publication ban and I didn't expect crowds after the first day."

Pickton was arrested in February 2002 by police investigating the disappearance of sex-trade workers from the Downtown Eastside. More than 60 women have gone missing from the neighbourhood since the early 1980s.

Prior to his arrest, Pickton lived on a seven-hectare property in Port Coquitlam, about a 45-minute drive east of Vancouver. He was involved in several businesses on the property.

Another factor behind the drop in interest may be the fact that the Crown and defence are making lengthy arguments about what evidence will be permitted during what is known as the voir dire portion of the trial. Lowe has already said the voir dire could last several months.

As he did Monday, Pickton sat in the prisoner's box listening closely to the arguments and occasionally taking notes.

Pickton's lead lawyer, Peter Ritchie, provided a glimpse on Monday at the task ahead for the defence, saying the Crown had disclosed about 750,000 pages of material that they had to "analyze and prepare for."

 The Canadian Press 2006



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