The Georgia Straight asked retired B.C. judge Wallace G. Craig to offer his thoughts on the news that convicted serial killer Robert Pickton may not face a second trial, for which he faces 20 counts of first-degree murder. This is what Craig submitted.
ROBERT PICKTON will haunt us forever: the
ultimate spectre of a serial killer.
On December 9, 2007, a befuddled jury found Pickton guilty of second degree murder in the serial killing of six street prostitutes. The judge imposed a mandatory concurrent life sentence for each murder.
A humanoid being beyond the reach of criminal justice, Pickton cannot atone for his maniacal violence to these young women of Skid Road and for remainder of his life will be jailed in virtual isolation.
Devoid of common sense, Pickton has appealed his convictions. As expected the Crown has cross-appealed, all the while holding open the prospect of proceeding with the remaining 20 first-degree murder charges.
However on February 26 Attorney General Wallace Oppal revealed that the remaining 20 charges will not be taken to trial if Pickton’s appeal is dismissed. Oppal said his decision is in the public interest because no further sentence can be achieved by virtue of further convictions…“Life means life. It means natural life and he can’t get any further sentence.” Oppal also stated “We can’t put a price on justice …we’re not going to say to the victims that the costs are so prohibitive that we’re not going to prosecute.”
Needless to say there was mixed response from the families of the 20 young women and a predictable response from the NDP justice critic Mike Farnsworth who called the decision “shocking and insensitive”.
It seems to me that Oppal made a correct decision based on an odd mixture of pragmatism, principle and what he left unsaid. He seems to realize how plain insensitive and cruel it would be to force another jury of twelve ordinary citizens through the horror of Pickton’s barbarism.
I wonder if Oppal now thinks it was a tactical error to go to trial on only 6 charges all the while leaving the impression that the remaining 20 would somehow remain relevant and bullet-proof against a challenge of double jeopardy.
Looking back on the trial it seems that it went of the rails when the jury was permitted to choose between first- and second-degree murder.
A serial killer seeks his victims one by one, sequentially and, unless clearly insane, is engaged in the most evil of planned, sadistic and deliberate first-degree murder. The jury was flat-out wrong in judging these serial murders to have been second-degree and should never have been given that opportunity. The jury should have been told that when each murder is serially entwined it gives rise to only one conclusion, by rational inference and common sense, that it is plain and simple first-degree murder.
Rather than calling for a trial of the remaining 20 counts of first-degree murder the public should be demanding a formal inquiry into why Pickton was able to so brazenly carry out his serial killing. What did successive mayors and council members of Vancouver and chiefs of police know and do about the missing women of Skid Road, mainly aboriginal girls? And did the RCMP know of the spreading word of strange partying and goings-on at the Pickton pig farm? Let us hear under oath why this malevolent vortex of our anarchic Skid Road was allowed to swallow up the most defenceless of women. It verges on malfeasance, and that alone cries out for a formal inquiry.
Mr. Oppal, the least you can do for the missing women of Skid Road is to appoint an inquiry commissioner. Now!
Wallace Craig – firstname.lastname@example.org – www.realjustice.ca
Craig was born and raised in Vancouver and presided over a criminal court in the Downtown Eastside for 26 years. In 2003, he had a book published called Short Pants to Striped Trousers, The life and times of a Judge in Skid Road Vancouver.
In December 2007, Straight.com reported that the office of the police complaint commissioner is considering ordering an investigation into the Vancouver police department's handling of the cases of the missing women from the Downtown Eastside.