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Details of Pickton allegations will be made public in January
LAW I Court decides against publication ban for the accused's first trial on six counts of first-degree murder

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Saturday, December 16, 2006

NEW WESTMINSTER I Details of the allegations against Robert (Willie) Pickton, who is accused of being Canada's worst serial killer, will be made public in January when his murder trial begins.

CREDIT: Jane Wolsak, Canadian Press Files.

Accused serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton (left) faces B.C. Supreme Court Justice James Williams as a court clerk reads out names of potential jurors.

New Westminster Supreme Court Justice James Williams ruled Friday that there will not be a publication ban on Pickton's first trial on six counts of first-degree murder, which is scheduled to start Jan. 8.

Crown prosecutor John Ahern asked Williams to consider whether there should be a publication ban on the first trial because Pickton will later face a second trial on 20 additional counts of first-degree murder.

Media lawyers argued strenuously that the public will want to know why Pickton is acquitted or convicted at his first trial.

"To hold this trial such that it would be secret from the public would be enormously controversial," The Vancouver Sun's lawyer, Robert Anderson, told Williams.

Anderson said it is important that one of the most "significant and complicated" trials in Canadian history be transparent, given the time and money spent on the police investigation, the testing of forensic evidence, and the legal proceedings.

"Imagine the public's lack of confidence . . . in the Canadian criminal justice system if this trial becomes a secret," he said.

Defence lawyer Peter Ritchie said his client did not want to apply for a media ban on the first trial.

The Crown also did not request a ban, but asked the judge to consider whether one was necessary to protect the second trial. Ahern added there will be a significant "overlap" of evidence between the two trials.

"There is going to be an awful lot of publicity about this trial," Ahern said. "Much of trial two will consist of evidence from trial one, perhaps the majority."

Williams ruled that since there was no formal request for a sweeping ban, he would not impose one. However, he said that doesn't preclude him from considering a more narrow ban during the trial if one is needed to address a specific issue.

Pickton, dressed in a short-sleeve grey dress shirt, watched the proceedings via video-link from the pre-trial centre where he has been since his February, 2002 arrest. He sat motionless in his chair with his head cocked to the right, showing no response to the legal arguments.

Ahern accused Ritchie of being "inconsistent" because while the defence is not requesting a publication ban, it also will not promise to abandon any future arguments that Pickton can't get a fair second trial due to publicity of the first.

Ahern also noted the defence actively pursued bans on pre-trial hearings.

Ritchie responded that the defence doesn't want to feel "the heat" from the public by asking for a ban on the trial itself.

He added he was less concerned about stories based on testimony from the first trial, and more concerned about the media getting access to certain exhibits that will be shown in court.

Contentious exhibits could last longer in the memories of potential second-trial jurors than the words spoken in court, Ritchie told Williams.

Media outlets, including The Sun, will argue in court Monday that exhibits filed in the Pickton trial should be made public.

Anderson raised the question Friday of whether there was even "an air of reality" that Pickton will have a second trial, given the money spent on the first trial and the need to find a second panel of 12 jurors.

Both the Crown and defence insist they are working under the assumption the second trial will take place. But Ritchie said the defence is "not even close to looking at the second trial" because it is still preparing for the first.

Twelve jurors were selected earlier this week to hear evidence in Pickton's first trial.

He has pleaded not guilty to the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Marnie Frey and Georgina Papin.

lculbert@png.canwest.com

 The Vancouver Sun 2006

Courtesy of
The Vancouver Sun

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016