Jury selection complete for Pickton trial

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun, CanWest News Service

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

LOWER MAINLAND -- Potential jurors for the Robert (Willie) Pickton serial murder trial were warned that the evidence in the case will be "graphic and distressing," and that the trial may be delayed from starting on time and could last longer than a year.

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Those were among the comments Justice James Williams gave to the 473 potential jurors who gathered in New Westminster Supreme Court Monday and today for the first public stage of a criminal trial that will be one of the longest and most complicated in Canadian history.

CREDIT: Stuart Davis/Vancouver Sun

Lead defence lawyer Peter Ritchie has represented Robert Pickton since his arrest in February 2002. He is shown here prior to entering court.

"Given the nature of the allegations against Mr. Pickton, the evidence will at times be quite graphic and distressing. At other times it will be somewhat technical and complex, concerning scientific matters such as DNA," Williams said.

"Serving on this jury will not be a holiday, it will involve a great deal of hard work."

And although he didn't elaborate, Williams also hinted at the challenge facing lawyers to get ready for this complicated trial, despite almost five years passing since Pickton was arrested. He said the trial, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 8, 2007, could be late in starting.

"There is also a possibility there may be some delay at the start of the trial, but if there is I suspect it will only be in the order of a week or two," Williams said.

He added the trial has been estimated to last 12 months, but could run longer.

Despite Williams' warning to the group, it took just two days to find 14 people - 12 jurors and two alternates - willing to weigh the fate of Robert (Willie) Pickton, who is accused of being Canada's worst serial killer.

"Two days to select a jury in a case like this when there has been so much [media] exposure is pretty good, is pretty efficient. I thought things went quite well," said lead defence lawyer Peter Ritchie.

"I think the people who are on this jury appear to be very fair, very fair in their approach to this case. A number of them expressed that they approach this case with an open mind and have not reached conclusions."

The 14-member jury was chosen from just 68 candidates - a small percentage of the 473 potential jurors who were scheduled to attend court this week and next for the jury selection process. The list of 473 had been whittled down from an initial group of 3,500 Lower Mainland residents who received summons for this case.

The 12 main jurors are seven men and five women, whose occupations include a bartender, a student and a physiotherapist. Five of them are retired.

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

The alternate jurors are a man who appears to be in his 30s, and a woman who appears to be in her 40s. They will only serve on the jury if one of the first 12 bow out before the start of the trial, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 8.

Vancouver Sun

 CanWest News Service 2006

Courtesy of
The Vancouver Sun



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