All but three jurors chosen for Pickton

Efficiency of the process pleases prosecution team

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

LOWER MAINLAND - Only three jurors still need to be found for the Robert (Willie) Pickton serial murder trial, after 11 people were chosen to sit on the jury Monday.

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"We are certainly pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the process so far," said Stan Lowe, who speaks for the prosecution team.

Thirty-eight people were questioned in court Monday in an effort to find 14 people -- 12 jurors and two alternates -- to weigh the evidence against Pickton.

Twenty-seven were excused for a variety of reasons, and 11 were accepted to sit on the panel: five women and six men.

The women appear to range in age from their early 20s to older than 60. Two of the men appear to be in their 30s or 40s, while the other four seem to be older than 60 and have grey hair.

Nine jurors are white and just two are of a different race.

A media ban prohibits identifying them by name.

A total of 473 potential jurors were scheduled to be questioned in the courthouse this week and next, although it appears that may not be necessary given that 11 were selected on the first day.

Lead defence lawyer Peter Ritchie said earlier that he was optimistic the jury could be chosen in one to three days.

A 33-year-old female retail worker, who was one of the rejected jurors, said outside court she would have been prepared to serve as a juror in the case even if it meant time away from her four-year-old daughter.

"As much as I would want to be with her, like I have been every day, I would also want her to be able to have a good future and this is a part of the justice system," the woman told reporters.

She said she was not upset to receive a summons to appear as a potential juror in the case, nor was she disappointed not to be accepted.

"I would have been okay with it. It would have been a bit of a struggle, it would have been a bit of a process, but you have to do part of your duty as being a Canadian citizen," she said.

In response to reporters' queries, she said she felt no emotion when she saw Pickton in the prisoner's box for the first time.

"I know really nothing about the trial. I just know what he's accused of," she said.

Some of the jurors seemed excited or surprised to be chosen to sit on the jury, while others showed no emotion in court.

One woman left the courtroom in tears Monday, and a man appeared to be very emotional during the jury selection process. They were both excused from sitting on the panel.

Justice James Williams explained in a ruling last week what would happen, in general terms, in the courtroom when the jury selection process started Monday. He said the potential jurors would be asked whether they have any reason they would not be able to sit on the jury, such as any hardship a year-long trial could cause. The judge indicated in his written ruling that the potential jurors would also be asked if they could be impartial when hearing the evidence against Pickton.

A publication ban also prohibits the media from listing the questions asked of the potential jurors, or the answers they provided, until the full panel of 14 has been chosen.

The time set aside to question the potential jurors took longer than anticipated on Monday. Sixty people had been scheduled to appear in court, but only 38 were questioned.

Questioning continues today.

The 473 potential jurors were whittled down from a list of 3,500.

The alternate jurors will only be required to serve if any of the first 12 drop out before the start of the trial, which is expected to begin Jan. 8, 2007.

At his first trial, Pickton, 57, will face allegations he killed six women from Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside: Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Pickton is charged with 26 murder counts, but 20 were severed by the trial judge last summer and will be dealt with in a subsequent trial. The judge decided a trial on 26 counts would be an unreasonable burden on the jury because it would take too long.

 The Vancouver Sun 2006

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