Pickton's lawyer argues against adjournment

Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

VANCOUVER -- Serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton still may be facing a second trial on 20 murder counts after the 2010 Olympics are over, Pickton's lawyer suggested at a hearing today in New Westminster.

"Mr. Pickton has been facing these charges for six years," defence lawyer Peter Ritchie told B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm.

The lawyer urged the judge to dismiss the Crown's application for an adjournment of a trial date for the second trial, arguing further delay will violate Pickton's constitutional right to a speedy trial.

"The defence seeks strongly to fix a trial date today," Ritchie said. "We want a trial at the earliest possible opportunity."

Pickton was found guilty last Dec. 9 of the murders of six women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 25 years. He still faces another 20-court murder trial, which is on hold.

The accused, who was in court Wednesday, made his first appearance on the second trial on Jan. 17. The defence wants a date set for the second trial so new defence lawyer Peter Wilson can assemble a team to begin work on the second trial, which will include new evidence not heard at the first trial, Ritchie told the court.

Wilson provided the judge with three cases on the law concerning trial delay to bolster the defence position. The Crown has asked Dohm to adjourn setting a date for the second trial until after Pickton's appeal can be heard, likely by next year.

Ritchie said if the second trial is delayed until after Pickton's appeal is heard, that means the trial date likely won't be set until September 2009 or later.

"Then we will find out whether the Crown will proceed with this trial or not," Ritchie told the judge.

Not only is it in Pickton's interests to set a trial date now but it's also in the interests of the families of the victims, the lawyer added.

"Society as a whole wants this matter resolved," Ritchie said.

He pointed out that if Pickton's appeal is successful, the appeal ruling will be appealed by the Crown to the Supreme Court of Canada, which will cause further delay.

Prosecutor Melissa Gillespie said the Crown is seeking an adjournment until next year before fixing a trial date for the second trial. By then, she said, Pickton's appeal is expected to be heard by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

"Delay is certainly an issue," she said, "but is has to be put in the context of convictions for six counts of murder."

Dohm said he will try to decide the matter by next week and will notify counsel when he has reached a decision.

Attorney-General Wally Oppal announced earlier that if Pickton exhausts all avenues of appeal  and remains convicted of six murders, it would not be in the public interest for the Crown to proceed on the second trial.

Meanwhile, the Missing Women Task Force should provide an update to families whose relatives remain on the missing women poster but have not resulted in charges against Pickton, a family member said today.

"We haven't had an update [from investigators] since before the trial," said Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn Crey's DNA was found during a massive search of the Pickton farm in 2002.

He was told by the prosecutor, before Pickton's first trial, that there was insufficient evidence to lay a charge.

Crey said he was shocked to find out from a March 13 letter from Robert Gillen, assistant deputy minister with the criminal justice branch, a division of the attorney-general's ministry, that Dawn's DNA was found "on a garment."

"It is shocking and I don't know the precise details to date," Crey said in an interview about the Crown's latest disclosure about the DNA evidence related to his sister.

"I think it relegates my sister's file to a cold case file," he said. "I have some serious doubt that they're spending time investigating. I find it frustrating and I'm feeling angry."

He said the families of the missing women used to get regular update meetings before Pickton's first trial, but haven't had an update since before the trial began. He said four families were told DNA of their loved ones was found at Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm but received no details about why charges were never laid, other than there was insufficient evidence.

Crey said he plans to meet with Attorney-General Wally Oppal, who has offered to discuss the matter with Crey.

Stan Lowe of the criminal justice branch said officials are willing to meet with Crey to resolve any questions he might have about his sister's case.

"If Mr. Crey has any concerns, we would encourage him to contact the criminal justice branch," Lowe said. "We'll meet with him and we'll do our very best to resolve these issues."

Gillen's letter to Crey, which was provided to The Vancouver Sun by Crey, said the Missing Women Task Force "remains staffed, financed and committed to complete the investigations of all the women that are on the task force poster."

The task force updated its poster last week and there are now 59 photos of missing women. The six women that Pickton is convicted of killing were removed.

The poster still includes the 20 women Pickton is accused of killing and faces a second trial on those first-degree murder charges.

The Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Sun - Pickton on Trial



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Updated: August 21, 2016