Judge orders Robert Pickton to be tried on six murder counts, not 26

Terri Theodore
Canadian Press

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

VANCOUVER (CP) - Accused serial killer Robert Pickton will be tried on six counts of murder, not 26, after a judge concluded trying all the counts would pose an unreasonable burden on a jury.

Artist's sketch shows accused serial killer Robert Pickton during his trial.

(CPimages/ Jane Wolsack)

Justice James Williams said in a ruling Wednesday his decision to separate the six counts from the rest of the case does not prevent Pickton from being tried on the remaining 20 counts later.

Williams noted the length of the trial and the volume of evidence as the reasons for his ruling.

"I am satisfied that the interests of justice require severance of counts from the present indictment," Williams wrote.

He said the evidence in support of the six counts is materially different than the evidence supporting the other 20, another justification to sever.

"One trial will proceed on those six counts The balance will be tried separately," he wrote.

The defence had said in May that it could take two years to try Pickton on the 26 counts. Defence lawyer Peter Ritchie said then that such a long trial "gives rise to some very serious issues about a jury."

In June, Pickton elected to be tried by a jury, though he had the option of a trial presided by a judge alone.

Pickton will now be tried starting in January for the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.

He has been in custody since February 2002 on charges of murdering prostitutes who disappeared from the city's notorious Downtown Eastside.

The court ordered testimony in the trial to begin Jan. 8 following a month-long process to pick 12 jurors.

It's expected 3,500 people will be called for jury duty. In a normal murder case, only 500 would be called.

Legal experts have speculated the people most likely able to sit as jurors for such a long trial are people who are retired or government employees who can collect regular salary.

His trial began in January with arguments that are being heard under a sweeping publication ban.

The other 20 women who will now be removed from the indictment against Pickton are: Cara Ellis, Andrea Borhaven, Kerry Koski, Wendy Crawford, Debra Lynne Jones, Tiffany Drew, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Diana Melnick, Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock, Heather Bottomley, Jennifer Furminger, Helen Hallmark, Patricia Johnson, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall.

 The Canadian Press 2006



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