Pickton appeal still a year away from hearing

Victims' families face further pain, with very little light at end of tunnel
Suzanne Fournier
The Province

The appeal hearing for Robert William Pickton will not start until March 30, 2009, prolonging the grief and lack of closure felt by the families of his victims and alleged victims.

"We want to lay Georgina to rest, but apparently we're not going to get any of her remains back anytime soon," said Cynthia Cardinal, whose sister, Georgina Papin, was murdered by Pickton.

Pickton was convicted of the second-degree murder of six women, including Papin, on Dec. 9, 2007. On Dec. 11, he was handed a sentence of life in jail with no hope of parole before 25 years.

"We understand that the justice system has to do everything properly and hear the appeal, but it's too lengthy for us. It's just too much to bear," said Cardinal.

Now she'll wait another year for Pickton's appeal, and possibly longer if a second trial is held.

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm ruled yesterday that Pickton's appeal of six second-degree-murder convictions will be heard over eight days.

Six issues will be argued in the appeal, including the charge to the jury by B.C. Supreme Court Justice James Williams, in which he said jurors could convict even if they found he didn't act alone.

The appeal court panel, which could be made up of three or five judges, likely will reserve its ruling.

No decision would then be made on whether Pickton will face another trial on another 20 first-degree-murder charges until three weeks after the appeal-court ruling, said B.C. Criminal Justice Branch spokesman Stan Lowe.

Lowe noted that B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal has said that if Pickton's appeal on the first six second-degree-murder convictions fails, and if his life sentence is upheld, the Crown will not proceed to try him on the 20 further charges of first-degree murder.

The Crown had filed an appeal of the verdict and asked the Court of Appeal to set aside Pickton's acquittal on six counts of first-degree murder -- but only if Pickton is granted a new trial on the first six. If Pickton's appeal succeeds, the Crown will proceed with all 26 first-degree-murder charges, said Lowe.

Cardinal said that, until Georgina's body is laid to rest, "her spirit won't be at rest."

Cardinal said the family is still recovering from the first trial, in which graphic details were revealed about how Pickton killed and butchered the women.

"No one warned us what we were going to hear about our sister -- we're still trying to get counselling," she said.

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 The Vancouver Province 2008



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