Picktons preliminary hearing to begin Dec. 2

CTV News Staff

Updated: Wed. Nov. 20 2002 11:11 PM ET

Accused B.C. serial killer Robert Pickton appeared in a Port Coquitlam court Wednesday to have the date of his preliminary hearing set, which will now begin Dec. 2.

The hearing had been scheduled for early November but was delayed over legal defence funding. Pickton's lawyer, Peter Ritchie, recently struck a deal with the provincial government after several days of closed-door talks.

During Pickton's preliminary hearing, the provincial court judge will begin hearing procedural applications, including those concerning publication bans.

The case has attracted international media attention, and there are concerns American media attending the trial will not obey publication bans imposed by the court.

"We're all worried, concerned that the evidence from the preliminary hearing may get out in public and influence the potential jury pool," Ritchie said.

Pickton's lawyer said the judge will have to consider whether to close the courtroom completely. "That would be the last option." He also brought up the idea that accredited media could have to register to attend the preliminary hearing and promise not to disclose information.

Publication bans are normally imposed on preliminary hearings in Canada to prevent potential jurors from hearing information that may not be presented at trial.

Pickton is charged with the first-degree murders of 15 of the 63 women who have disappeared from Vancouver's lower eastside. The families of other missing women say that more DNA has been found at the farm without additional murder charges being laid.

An exhaustive search at the Pickton farm continues. A letter sent by police to family members said 8,600 exhibits had been found at the farm so far.

Investigators have also searched another Pickton property on Burns Road where large-scale parties were once staged in a venue dubbed Piggy's Palace. Another 2,600 exhibits were taken from that property.

Many of the exhibits are reported to be swabs to be submitted for DNA testing. Due to the amount of DNA material, Ritchie has argued that Pickton needed at least six lawyers to receive adequate representation.

The province proposed a lead counsel, two senior lawyers and any number of junior lawyers as long as their total hours were capped. It's unclear what kind of arrangement the two parties agreed to.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Geoff Plant says the province wants help from Ottawa with prosecution costs. He would like to see an agreement similar to the one negotiated in the Air India trial. In that case, Ottawa footed 50 per cent of the bill.

Plant says the entire legal aid system in his province would be stretched beyond the breaking point without such an agreement. He points out that the federal government has cut its contribution to legal aid in B.C. by half in the last decade.

But legal funding isn't the only contentious issue that has shadowed the case in recent days. Det. Scott Driemel, a spokesman for the Missing Women Joint Task Force, recently switched posts after making a disparaging comment about the women.

Many of family members of the missing women welcomed Driemel's reassignment. Rick Frey, whose daughter Marnie has been missing since 1997, said he found Driemel's comments "appalling."

"I found them very offensive and what hurts me the most about the whole bloody thing is we've been telling the police department how they been dragging their feet on this whole missing women's case," said Frey.

"His comment is what he thought about them being the low lifes of the world. They were our sisters and daughters and mothers. They had feelings. I'm glad he's gone."

Last week, two Vancouver newspaper refused to run an advertisement that likened the treatment of animals to the fate of murdered on the Pickton farm.

Family of the victims were disgusted by the campaign proposed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which is a U.S.-based advocacy group with a history of creating controversial ads.

"All they're talking about is the pain of the animals, they don't care about the pain of the families," Laurie Isberg said. "They're torturing us. They're torturing us like they say everybody tortures animals."

With a report from The Canadian Press

 Copyright 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc.



Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016