Crown argues not to retry Robert Pickton

By Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service

March 24, 2010 4:36 PM

OTTAWA The evidence against serial killer Robert Pickton is so "staggering" that a new trial would be futile because he would inevitably be found guilty again, Crown prosecutors will argue Thursday in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Lawyers for the notorious British Columbia pig farmer want the bench to overturn his murder convictions and order a new trial.

The British Columbia Crown counters that it would shatter public faith in the justice system to give Pickton another chance to clear his name.

"Ordering a new trial in this case, where conviction is inevitable, would only serve to detract from society's perception of fairness and the proper administration of justice," says the Crown's legal brief from lawyers Gregory Fitch and John Gordon.

Pickton, from Port Coquitlam, B.C., was sentenced to life imprisonment after a jury found him guilty in December 2007 of six counts of second-degree murder, with no chance of parole for 25 years.

The victims, female prostitutes, disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside from 1978-2001. Their butchered remains were found on his farm.

The Crown, in its written arguments, notes that Pickton admitted to being the "head honcho" responsible for the deaths of the women, that their bodies were found on his property and that he was a skilled butcher who chopped up some of his victims the same way he did his pigs.

"The weight of the evidence against Pickton is staggering," says the Crown's written arguments. "He is a self-confessed serial killer. He admitted to being caught because he became sloppy in the end. He regretted falling short of his goal to kill an even 50."

A central issue in Pickton's appeal is whether Justice James Williams, the judge during the year-long trial, made a critical mistake when he instructed jury members that they could still convict Pickton, even if they decided he did not act alone but that he "actively participated" in the murders.

The judge's assertion, in response to a jury question after six days of deliberations, contradicted his earlier instruction that the jury had to conclude that Pickton was the "actual shooter."

While the Crown maintained during the trial that Pickton acted alone, luring the women to his farm where he killed them and butchered their bodies in his slaughterhouse, the defence had argued Pickton's farm "was a beehive of activity" and that other persons such as his friends Dinah Taylor and Pat Casanova could have killed the women.

Pickton's lawyer will argue in the Supreme Court that even those charged with the most despicable acts have the right to procedural fairness and that the judge's changing of his marching orders to the jury amounted to a miscarriage of justice.

"No matter how heinous the crime, an accused has the right to a fair trial," says a written brief from Pickton's lawyers, Gil MacKinnon and Patrick McGowan.

The Supreme Court has ruled in the past that a judge's charge to a jury does not have to be perfect, and the test is whether faulty instructions could have made a difference in the outcome of the trial.

If Pickton wins a new trial, the Crown has said it also will proceed with another 20 murder charges, in addition to the original six.

The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld Pickton's conviction last year, but one judge dissented.

The Crown argues in its Supreme Court submission that Pickton's trial, far from being a miscarriage of justice, was "unduly favourable to him."

With a file from Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun

Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun



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