Media Challenge Ban in Serial Killer Case
By JEREMY HAINSWORTH
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, March 20, 2003
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Five U.S. media
organizations asked an appeals court Thursday to overturn inclusion of the
Internet in a publication ban covering a preliminary hearing in Canada's worst
serial killing case.
The Associated Press, The Seattle Times and three Seattle television stations
also asked for the release of affidavits that were introduced in support of
extending the ban in the case of Robert Pickton.
Pickton, 53, is accused of killing 15 women who were among more than 60
prostitutes and drug addicts missing from downtown Vancouver over the past 25
years. He has said little during the preliminary proceedings, but in a defense
statement denied killing one of the women.
Media lawyers were not allowed to address the hearing judge when the initial
publication ban was ordered Dec. 6 or when it was extended Jan. 15.
David Tomlin, assistant to AP President Louis D. Boccardi, said that at the
least, media organizations should have an opportunity to present their arguments
"We think it's important for the court to weigh the small likely impact of
non-Canadian Web sites on the jury pool in Vancouver against the enormous
infringement imposed by the court's order on the speech and press rights of a
worldwide community of Internet producers and readers," Tomlin said.
The petition filed Thursday with the Supreme Court of British Columbia names
Pickton, his lawyer Peter Ritchie, Judge David Stone, British Columbia Attorney
General Geoff Plant and court manager Tom Smith. They have seven days to
The preliminary hearing, which is expected to last until May, is being held to
determine if there is sufficient evidence to justify putting Pickton on trial.
At the start of the hearing, Stone imposed a ban on publishing details of
evidence presented at the hearing within Canada, a common step in this country.
The ban is intended to avoid tainting the perceptions of potential jurors in
case the hearing leads to a trial.
Defense and prosecution agreed Jan. 14 that there had been possible breaches of
the order. Stone expanded the ban the next day to include the posting of
information on the Internet.
Stone notified reporters from AP and The Seattle Times that they would be
excluded from the hearing if further breaches occurred. Conviction for violating
a ban carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.
In complying with the ban, AP stories on the hearing are not transmitted within
Canada and carry warnings that they contain information prohibited under the
ban. Signals from Seattle TV news reports about the case that reach the
Vancouver area have been blacked out.
The preliminary hearing will reveal details of a yearlong police search of two
properties -- a small farm and a nearby plot -- that Pickton owns with his
The case has spawned sensational charges of a killer preying on prostitutes and
drug addicts, then disposing of the bodies on the 10-acre farm 18 miles east of
Fifty-one more forensic investigators have joined 52 who have been searching the
farm since last June 3. They are sifting through dirt on conveyer belts looking
for bone fragments or other potential evidence.
Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press