VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Crown dragging feet, Pickton lawyers say
Repeated requests for information called unsuccessful
Lawyers for accused serial killer Robert (Willy) Pickton say Crown prosecutors in the case are dragging their feet in terms of disclosing key evidence they need to prepare properly for his preliminary hearing.
Marilyn Sandford, one of three defence lawyers in Port Coquitlam provincial court Monday, said repeated requests for information have been unsuccessful in getting the disclosure.
"Vital evidence and information is still yet to be provided to us," Sandford told Judge David Stone.
Pickton is charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder of women on the list of 64 missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Sandford said the defence has so far not been provided with a series of search warrants and related documentation that has been used in the continuing crime scene investigation at Pickton's farm at 953 Dominion Ave. and another one nearby on Burns Road that he owns with his brother.
"These searches are perhaps unprecedented in their magnitude and their duration in the history of this country," Sandford explained.
She said the defence also wants copies of videotapes of witness interviews conducted by police so Pickton's legal team can prepare for cross-examination.
"These witnesses are former friends and associates of the accused," Sandford said. "We want to be able to assess the witnesses and their demeanour and credibility."
Sandford said that if the required disclosure is not forthcoming, she may have to make an application for it in B.C. Supreme Court, further delaying the start of the preliminary hearing.
Pickton's defence team also wants copies of wiretaps in the possession of the police that involve 50,000 phone calls.
"We don't have the tapes. We don't have the logs which are summaries of the calls," she said.
Another concern of defence lawyers is the fact that some of the forensic reports supplied by Crown counsel have been "very, very heavily edited," she said.
"It is hard to understand how we can defend a murder case without knowing this information," Sandford said.
Stone suggested that some of the needed information could come out when witnesses are testifying during the preliminary hearing, if the material is not provided beforehand.
But Sandford said if the disclosure requested does not come soon, it may be too late to properly prepare before the evidence is due to begin Jan. 13.
She said she and lead counsel Peter Ritchie had been denied a tour of the Dominion Avenue farm site and have not been provided with a detailed map or plans of the many outbuildings on the site.
"As we prepare, it puts us at a significant disadvantage," Sandford said.
The disclosure that has been provided, which amounts to tens of thousands of pages, is on protected computer disks, meaning the defence cannot create its own files from the material, Sandford said.
Throughout her two-hour argument, Pickton displayed no emotion as he sat the glassed-in prisoner's docket with one sheriff sitting beside him and another three outside his booth.
While dressed in the same tones of black and grey that have dominated his wardrobe, Pickton had on a new sweater and black jeans.
On his left arm was a pink, hospital-style wrist band, visible when he crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair throughout the day.
Crown counsel Mike Petrie responded that he was not refusing to provide most of what Sandford had requested, but that it was taking considerable time to put the material together.
"The Crown has not refused to provide anything," Petrie said.
One thing the defence has requested is every note written by every police officer on the case, which takes time to produce, Petrie explained.
"We are working furiously to do that," he said.
Petrie said unlike criminal cases where all the evidence is gathered before the charges are laid and the matter then proceeds to court, this case continues to be investigated.
As for information blacked out in forensic reports, Petrie said: "At this particular time that information could compromise the on-going investigation."
Judge Stone said he was operating in a "vacuum" because he knew nothing about the Crown's case against Pickton.
Petrie then provided a general overview of the case, in which he said he would lead off with police interviews with Pickton, followed by calling police and expert witnesses and ending off with civilian witnesses.
Defence lawyers have already indicated they plan to challenge the admissibility of some video-tape evidence.
Petrie asked Stone for a week-long adjournment, which he said would allow him to meet most of the defence requests on disclosure.
Pickton will be back in court Dec. 17.
The courtroom that was packed a week ago for arguments on whether to hold the preliminary hearing behind closed doors, was less than half-full Monday.
© Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun
Updated: August 21, 2016