Robert Pickton is seen in a screen capture from a 1996 video
shot by BCTV News in connection with a story about property
tax complaint connected to the farm.
Photograph by: Global
VANCOUVER - Serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton, convicted of six
counts of second-degree murder, had his bid for a new trial turned down
Thursday by the B.C. Court of Appeal in a 2 to 1 decision.
In a separate ruling, the three Court of Appeal justices unanimously
agreed with the Crown that errors were made in Pickton's trial, such as
the 26 charges against him being divided into two trials. But it said,
as per the Crown's request, that no additional trial would be
immediately ordered to try Pickton on all 26 counts because Pickton's
appeal bid has failed.
That means Pickton will continue to serve a life sentence with no chance
of parole for 25 years.
However, because Pickton's appeal ruling was split, he can automatically
appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada -- which could overrule this Court
of Appeal ruling. Should the Supreme Court order a new trial, then the
Crown could opt to proceed on all 26 counts.
Neil MacKenzie, communications counsel for the criminal justice branch,
said the decision means Pickton's second-degree murder convictions
As well, Pickton must spend at least 25 years in jail before becoming
eligible for parole.
But he remained guarded in his comments, noting that because of the
dissenting judge, Pickton has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court
of Canada. He said the province would be continuing to review the "long,
complicated decision," in the coming weeks.
He added that if Pickton exhausts all his appeals and the convictions
continue to stand, the Crown won't proceed with the other 20 murder
charges because it would not result in a greater penalty.
Pickton's defence had argued that the Crown throughout the trial had
argued that Pickton acted alone, but in response to a question by the
jury during deliberations did an about-face and suggested he could have
acted with someone else.
But Justice Richard Low, writing the judgment in concurrence with B.C.
Court of Appeal Chief Justice Lance Finch, disagreed, saying the
possiblity Pickton acted with someone else was a possiblity throughout
"The evidence supported the conclusion that the appellant committed each
of the killings or that he actively participated in each of them (or one
or more of them) in concert with another person," Low wrote.
Pickton's appeal argument also alleged that trial judge James Williams
erred in his response to the jury question. While Low and Finch found
portions of his charge to the jury contained "glaring inconsistency" and
was "irreconcilable," they disagreed that Williams had erred in his
first and second response to the question.
However, Justice Ian Donald disagreed with his colleagues, concluding
that Williams made "a serious error of law" and that there was a
"miscarriage of justice."
His reasons included the fact that he did not think it was fair for the
Crown to introduce the possiblitiy Pickton acted with someone else so
late in the trial.
"I view the Crown's behaviour as scrambling to recover ground by
advancing a co-perpetrator theory when the jury question indicated they
wer having a problem with the sole perpetrator theory," he said.
"Despite the body of evidence against Pickton, the jury deliberated over
nine days and reached the somewhat curious result of second degree
murder. While it is impossible to know with certainty what was behind
the lengthy deliberations and the acquittal on first degree murder, the
lack of a full development of party liability in the charge cannot be
dimissed as a cause."
The Crown's appeal alleged several errors in law were made, and the
three Court of Appeal justices unanimously agreed with many of the
points. They said Williams erred by severing the counts into two trials
and by not allowing a key Crown witness to testify at trial - but the
nature of her evidence cannot be reported because of a publication ban.
The judge also erred, the justices said, because he didn't allow certain
similar fact evidence to be heard by the jury; that evidence is also
under a publication ban.
"If Mr. Pickton remains convicted of second degree murder on those six
counts after all appeals are concluded, there would be no useful purpose
in a retrial on those same offences as charges of first degree murder.
Such a trial would impose further enormous demands on financial and
judicial resources to achieve a final practical disposition that has
alredy been arrived at on the first trial. It would be manifestly
redundant and unfair to compel such a result."
The Pickton case was the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian
history. Two years ago, officials estimated the police investigation
cost about $70 million, with the trial costs estimated at another $46
Pickton, 60, was originally charged with the first-degree murder of 27
women who disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
One charge involving an unknown victim listed as “Jane Doe” was stayed
by the trial judge, who then decided the remaining 26 counts should be
divided into two trials — one involving six charges and the other
involving 20 murder counts.
Witnesses at Pickton’s trial testified about how he often butchered pigs
on his sprawling Port Coquitlam farm, which was surrounded by
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