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Lengthy voir dire portion of Robert Pickton case set to begin in January

MACLEANS.CA
GREG JOYCE

October 11, 2005

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CP) - An important phase of the court proceedings against accused serial killer Robert Pickton will begin in January, the trial judge said Tuesday.

Justice James Williams set Jan. 30 as the date to begin the voir dire portion of the trial against Pickton, who is charged with 27 counts of first-degree murder.

The voir dire, which is sometimes referred to as a trial within a trial and is conducted under a publication ban, is to allow the judge to decide on what evidence will be allowed when the trial begins.

The voir dire could take several months. No date for the start of the trial has yet been set.

"There are a number of complex issues that have to be litigated," Crown spokesman Stan Lowe told reporters outside the courtroom. "Each issue has to be resolved so it's difficult to put a time limit on it."

Pickton will have been in custody for almost four years by the time the voir dire begins.

"This case is unprecedented in its magnitude and it's a case that will set standards as far as forensic investigation, and as far as how trials proceed through our court system," said Lowe.

Lowe said the length of time it has taken is unavoidable.

"This case has moved through the court system in a fair, efficient and diligent manner. We have to continue proceeding one step at a time with each phase until we get to the trial."

Pickton, 55, is accused of killing women who were mostly from the rough-tumble Downtown Eastside. More than 60 have disappeared from the neighbourhood since the early 1980s.

For many days since August, Crown and defence lawyers in the case have been involved in pre-trial hearings on a number of issues.

As he has for many court appearances since his arrest, Pickton appeared via a videolink in the courtroom. He has not yet formally pleaded to the charges or elected whether to be tried by jury or judge alone.

In June, the number of first-degree murder charges facing Pickton was increased to 27 from 15.

Seven of the more recent charges arose from evidence at Pickton's preliminary hearing in 2003. The other five charges stem from evidence developed since the hearing.

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Updated: August 21, 2016