Will Willy Pickton get a fair trial?

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

The ability of accused serial killer Robert (Willy) Pickton to get a fair trial may be prejudiced by sensational media reports related to human remains found on Pickton's Port Coquitlam property, a prominent defence lawyer said Tuesday.

BCTV News on Global

A lawyer says it may be difficult for accused serial killer Robert Pickton to get a fair trial, in light of the media coverage surrounding the Missing Women case.

"I am very concerned about media coverage in this case," said Michael Tammen, a lawyer in the Air India case, who said the magnitude of the investigation in the Pickton case parallels that of the Air India case. "It could be gravely prejudicial to this chap's ability to get a fair trial."

Tammen was commenting on a television news report Monday that gave details of where police allegedly found the remains of at least two of Vancouver's missing women some months ago.

His concerns were echoed by the joint RCMP-Vancouver police missing women's task force, which issued a statement Tuesday urging the media to stop sensational reporting in the case.

While not specifying which media reports it was referring to, the task force said it has "received complaints from family members who say some news media stories have put them on an emotional roller coaster.

"What they are simply asking for is an end to sensational speculation and to have time to deal with what is already a very traumatic time in their lives."

The statement says the only information that can be considered totally accurate is that coming from the task force.

"It is understandable that this high-profile investigation and search creates competitive pressures for the news media. However, on behalf of the families affected by this horrible tragedy, we and the victims services staff ask news reporters to please recognize the deep emotional impact and trauma that can be caused by their questions to family members."

Pickton has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Jacquilene McDonell, Brenda Ann Wolfe, Andrea Joesbury, Heather Bottomley, Diane Rock, Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson.

While representatives of the missing women's task force earlier confirmed that human remains had been recovered, they provided no details to the media or the women's families regarding those remains.

"That type of coverage clearly has a grave potential to impact on this man's ability to get a fair trial," said Tammen.

"I believe on this case that the task force and the media liaison people are well aware of that and that is why they are trying to walk the tightrope they are," said Tammen, who earlier criticized police for not forming a task force sooner to investigate the disappearance of dozens of women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

"I think they they have done a reasonably good job of that -- keeping the families informed on the one hand and telling the media what needs to be known while still preserving, as best they can, the fellow's right to a fair trial."

Tammen said he can only think of two cases -- Pickton and the Air India bombing case -- where police have continued an intense investigation after the first charges are laid.

Tammen is a defence lawyer for Ajaib Singh Bagri, one of three men charged in the Air India case.

"We know there must be all kinds of leaks," he said of the missing women case. "People talk. People talk to their friends, spouses, significant others, colleagues, co-workers and so on and word gets out about various things."

Families of the missing women were making frantic calls to the missing women's task force to try to get more information about the television report.

But task force representatives said they could neither confirm nor deny the reports because Pickton is before the courts.

 Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun

Courtesy of Vancouver Sun



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

Updated: August 21, 2016