VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Judge delays Pickton trial two weeks
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The family of one of the six women Robert (Willie) Pickton is accused of killing is frustrated by a two-week delay in the Port Coquitlam pig farmer's serial murder trial.
The trial had been scheduled to start Jan. 8, but trial judge Justice James Williams announced Monday it will be delayed until Jan. 22.
Rick Frey has been searching for answers since his daughter Marnie disappeared in 1997, and in particular since Pickton was arrested in February 2002. He hopes the trial can answer his questions, and is disappointed by another delay.
"It's a waiting game and you get the academics telling you that, 'Oh, they [the lawyers] want to make sure that everything is right,' " Frey said.
"But do they really know what the feelings of the families are?"
Marnie Frey is one of the six women Pickton will be accused of murdering at the trial beginning in January. He is to face a second trial in connection with the first-degree murder of 20 additional women.
Williams, who assembled the jurors in New Westminster Supreme Court on Monday to inform them of the delay, added: "I am confident in assuring you that we will start on that date."
The jurors displayed no visible reaction to the news.
Williams said the delay will allow outstanding pretrial issues to be resolved, which will enable lawyers to better prepare for the legal proceedings and should reduce other disruptions once the jury begins to hear evidence.
Williams said the delay is the fault of no one person, noting that prosecutors and defence lawyers are dealing with a "myriad of problems" in preparing for "the unusually long and unusually complex" trial.
In bringing the 14-member jury panel -- 12 jurors and two alternates -- to court Monday, Williams said he did not want them to first hear about the delay on the radio or in a newspaper.
Crown and defence lawyers have spent the bulk of 2006 in pretrial motions, called voir dires, to determine what evidence will be heard by the jury once the trial starts.
The lawyers also conducted a preliminary hearing for six months in 2003 to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to send Pickton to trial, and held several pretrial hearings in 2005.
Despite the legal groundwork that has been laid over the past five years, prosecutor Stan Lowe said the delay is needed so some additional pretrial applications can be resolved before the jury begins to hear evidence.
"If you take the whole scope of these proceedings into perspective, it's a short delay given the complex nature of this case," said Lowe, who speaks for the Pickton prosecution team.
"All counsel in these pretrial applications and voir dires have been working full-out over the course of the past year."
Lead defence lawyer Peter Ritchie also said there is a tremendous amount of work required to prepare for the trial, and both sides will likely be working through the holiday season to get ready for Jan. 22.
"I will expect there will be midnight oil burning alongside the yule logs this season," said Ritchie, who added his client is also anxious for the trial to start.
"Five years is a extraordinarily long time to wait for a trial, and it's an extraordinary case in many ways."
The wait has been too long for Frey, his wife, and Marnie's teenage daughter, Brittany. "I guess they [the lawyers] want to get all their ducks in order, but geez, how many years has it been? Since 2002? I think they should have had them in order by now," Frey said from his home on Vancouver Island.
Pickton watched the proceedings via video-link to a pretrial centre, where he has been since his arrest. He has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murders of Frey, Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin and Brenda Wolfe.
This story can be heard online after 10:30 a.m. today at www.vancouversun.com/readaloud.
© The Vancouver Sun 2006
Updated: August 21, 2016