Tuesday, March 31

Darker side of killer's tale waiting to be told

Worst is yet to be released in grisly serial killing

By Ethan Baron, The Province
March 31, 2009

There are things you don't know about the Robert Pickton case.

You probably know Pickton was convicted of murdering six women, and is accused of killing 20 more. You likely know about the trailer, about the pigs. If you followed the trial closely, you know about the fur-lined handcuffs, the associate with a hole through his throat, the beloved horse Goldy whose stuffed head decorated the wall of the serial killer's squalid abode.

But just you wait. Revelations are coming. I would say, "Brace yourself," but it would do no good. You will not be prepared.

You may wonder, how could this case get darker? Women were killed, dismembered, their body parts left to rot, while the greasy-haired, malodorous killer chuckled and grinned his way through a life of petty enterprise, butchering pigs, pushing dirt, and wrenching on cars.

The case gets darker, all right, but I can't tell you how.

Judge-ordered publication bans imposed for the trial remain in place, preventing the media from revealing information from pre-trial proceedings.

When this information is finally made public depends on the outcome of the appeal process. If Pickton loses his appeal and the case is put to rest, the bans will be lifted and The Province will publish stories that would be hard to believe if they weren't the truth.

If he wins his appeal, and is subsequently tried on the other 20 murder charges, some of the information will come to light in that trial, with the rest spilling out after its conclusion.

So it may be that we can reveal to you, within a matter of weeks, all that you don't yet know. Or it could be years before those stories can be published.

In the meantime, we have this appeal, in which the killer's legal team argues that the trial judge failed to properly prepare the jury to make a decision on Pickton's guilt or innocence. The pig butcher's right to a fair trial was compromised, they contend.

Pickton's trial was hugely expensive and, for many, the appeal appears an added, unnecessary burden on the taxpayer. But clearly, trial judge James Williams gave the defence an avenue for appeal. Williams himself admitted he'd erred in his pre-deliberation instructions to the jury, and he attempted to correct his mistake with an amendment.

The defence's introduction yesterday laid out five grounds for Pickton's appeal, all of them related to Williams' jury instructions and his response to a question from the jury during deliberations.

It's too early to say whether the Pickton team has any chance of persuading the three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel that Pickton's six murder convictions should be tossed.

Whatever the outcome, the proceedings that began yesterday are a step toward the day when you will find out the complete story behind Canada's most infamous serial-killing case.


© Copyright (c) The Province
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Monday, March 30

Pickton Appeal March 30 2009 Day 1

Please support rally for our missing and murdered girls and women: Appeal process on for the next 8 working days.. 800 Smithe Street. In Honor of the following and many many more...
Marie Laliberte
Morenda Isaac
Helen Lessard
Sarah De Vries
Lillian Jean O'Dare - September 1978.
Wendy Louise Allen - March 1979.
Rebecca Guno - June 1983
Sherry Rail - January 1984.
Yvonne Marlene Abigosis - January 1984.
Linda Louise Grant - October 1984.
Sheryl Donahue - May 1985
Leigh Miner - December 1993.
Laura Mah - August 1985.
Teressa Williams - July 1988.
Ingrid Soet - August 1989.
Nancy Clark - August 1991.
Mary Lands - 1991.
Kathleen Wattley - June 1992.
Elsie Sebastien - October 1992.
Gloria Fedyshyn - January 1993.
Sherry Baker - 1993
Teresa Louis Triff - April 1993.
Angela Arseneault - August 1994.
Catherine Gonzalez - March 1995.
Catherine Knight - April 1995.
Dorothy Spence - August 1995.
Diana Melnick - December 1995.
Tanya Holyk - October 1996. ( Pickton charged with 1st-degree murder)
Olivia Williams - December 1996.
Frances Young - April 1996.
Stephanie Lane - January 1997.
Sharon Ward - February 1997.
Cara Ellis - 1997.
Maria Laura Laliberte - January 1997.
"Kellie" (Richard) Little - April 1997.
Helen Hallmark - August 1997. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Janet Henry - June 1997.
Marnie Frey - August 1997.
Jacqueline Murdock - August 1997.
Cindy Beck - September 1997.
Andrea Borhaven - sometime in 1997.
Sherry Irving - April 1997. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Cindy Feliks - November 1997.
Kerry Koski - January 1998.
Inga Hall - February 1998. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Sarah deVries - April 1998.
Elaine Dumba - Apri 1998.
Sheila Egan - July 1998.
Julie Young - October 1998.
Angela Jardine - November 1998.
Marcella Creison - December 1998.
Michelle Gurney - December 1998.
Ruby Anne Hardy - 1998.
Tania Petersen - 1998.
Tammy Fairbairn - 1998.
Jacqueline McDonell - January 1999. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Georgina Papin - March 1999. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Brenda Wolfe - February 1999. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Wendy Crawford - November 1999.
Jennifer Furminger - December 1999. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Tiffany Louise Drew - December 1999.
Dawn Crey - November 2000.
Debra Jones - December 2000.
Sharon Abraham - 2000.
Patricia Johnson - March 2001. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Yvonne Marie Boen - March 2001.
Heather Bottomley - April 2001. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Heather Chinnock - April 2001. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Angela Josebury - June 2001. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Sereena Abotsway - August 2001. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Diane Rock - October 2001. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder)
Mona Wilson - November 2001. (Robert Pickton charged with first-degree murder).

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Serial killer Willie Pickton's murder convictions should be overturned, lawyer argues

By Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun
March 30, 2009 6:51 PM

VANCOUVER - Serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton’s trial “went off the rails” during the jury’s deliberations, and therefore his conviction on six counts of second-degree murder should be overturned, a defence lawyer told the B.C. Court of Appeal on Monday.

It is the constitutional right of any defendant, “no matter how heinous the accusations” against him, to have a fair trial, Pickton’s lawyer, Gil McKinnon, argued during the opening day of the appeal of the high-profile 2007 trial.

Therefore, the former Port Coquitlam pig farmer, who is serving a life sentence for killing six women who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside, should be granted a new trial, McKinnon said.

That request elicited a heavy sigh from one of a dozen relatives who were in the courtroom, where six prosecutors and two defence lawyers will make arguments before three appeal court justices over nine days.

More family members and friends of the six victims, as well as of other women who have vanished from the neighbourhood, chanted, beat drums and called out for justice on the courthouse steps in downtown Vancouver.

Three sisters of Georgina Papin, who disappeared 10 years ago and is one of the women Pickton was convicted of killing, travelled from Edmonton to listen to the appeal.

“Every part of this trial is important, especially for our sister Georgina, and we want to make sure she is represented,” said Cynthia Cardinal. “We’ll live with this for the rest of our lives.”

At the centre of the defence’s appeal is the only question the jury members asked the judge during their nine days of deliberations in December 2007. Although the question was awkwardly worded, the jury appeared to be asking whether they could find Pickton guilty if they determined he had “indirectly” killed one or more of the women.

It is a reasonable interpretation, McKinnon said, to conclude that some members of the jury must have thought someone other than Pickton shot the three victims who died of gunshot wounds and, potentially, killed the other three victims, whose cause of death could not be determined because very little of their remains were found on Pickton’s property.

“One or more members of the jury were having some difficulty with the Crown’s theory that Mr. Pickton was the shooter of the three women and/or the killer of the other three women,” the lawyer told the court.

McKinnon argued that the trial judge, Justice James Williams, made five errors, among them: the way he initially addressed the jurors’ question; changing his mind and creating the “real possibility” that some jurors could conclude Pickton could be convicted for acting as a participant, instead of a sole perpetrator, in the deaths; and giving a charge to the jury that was “incomplete, misleading and wholly inadequate.”

McKinnon alleged the Crown’s theory that Pickton acted alone in the murders never wavered in this case until the jury members asked their question, and then the Crown “backslid” from its previous position to embrace the idea he may have worked with someone else. That, the defence argued, “destroyed the integrity of this trial.”

McKinnon indicated that the Crown, which is expected to start its response to the defence appeal today or Wednesday, will argue it did not change its position.

On Dec. 9, 2007, three days after asking its question, the jury found Pickton not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder in the deaths of Papin, Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey.

The Crown has also filed its own appeal, arguing the trial judge made six errors, including rulings on whether the jury heard certain evidence and severing the charges against Pickton into two trials, one of six counts and the other of 20. The Crown’s appeal will likely be presented next week, once argument in the defence appeal is finished.

Pickton, who is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, was not present in court.

The 50-seat courtroom was packed most of Monday morning with reporters, victims’ supporters, members of the public, and two Missing Women Task Force investigators. The crowd thinned out in the afternoon, as the legal arguments became more technical.

Community activists Bernie Williams and Gladys Radek, who last year walked across Canada to demand a public inquiry in the case, wore distinctive red native robes in the courtroom. Many of the women who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside were aboriginal.

Also in the courtroom were relatives of some of the other 20 women who Pickton is accused of killing. They hope Pickton will face a second trial on those counts, but the Crown has said it will not proceed with that trial if the defence’s appeal bid is unsuccessful.


© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
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Sunday, March 29

Crown, defence set to begin appeal following conviction of Pickton


March 29, 2009

VANCOUVER — Gasps erupted in the courtroom more a year ago when a jury foreman announced a “not guilty” verdict for Robert Pickton on the charge of first-degree murder.

In short order, the foreman announced the jury did find Pickton guilty of the second-degree murders of six women. After more than five years of pre-trial arguments, testimony and legal manoeuvring, Pickton was a convicted serial killer.

But his lengthy journey through the Canadian criminal justice system continues Monday, when the B.C. Court of Appeal will begin hearing duelling appeals by both the Crown and the defence in the case.

The Crown would like Pickton convicted of first-degree murder, while the defence wants a retrial on second-degree murder charges.

There are several possible outcomes from the continuing legal fight.

If the Appeal Court rejects the defence arguments and upholds the six convictions, B.C.’s attorney general and the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch have already said the province will drop plans for a trial on the remaining 20 murders Pickton is accused of committing.

Or, the court could accept defence arguments and order a new trial for Pickton.

If that happens, the defence wants any new trial to be on six counts of second-degree murder, while the Crown has said it will ask the court to set aside the not guilty verdicts on first-degree murder and order a new trial on all 26 first-degree counts listed in the initial indictment against the Port Coquitlam farmer.

Pickton, 59, initially faced 26 first-degree murder counts, but the trial judge separated the charges into two trials to simplify the process. Pickton has been convicted of killing Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey and Brenda Wolfe.

One of the Crown’s appeal arguments will be that the trial judge erred in deciding to hear only six counts in the initial trial.

The Crown will also argue that the judge erred by failing to instruct the jury that dismemberment and disposal of the victims’ remains on the Pickton property was relevant to the issue of planning and deliberation, with regards to a first-degree murder charge.

The Appeal Court has set aside nine days to hear Crown and defence arguments — an extraordinarily long hearing for the court.

“The amount of time set aside reflects a couple of things,” said Crown spokesman Neil McKenzie. “One is the fact that the court will be dealing with a trial that lasted a year.”

McKenzie was referring to the jury portion of the trial, which lasted a year, but the trial really began a year earlier with legal arguments that took place before the jury was even chosen.

“The other aspect that increases the time required is that there are two appeals underway,” McKenzie said.

“There is the defence appeal of the convictions of second-degree murder and the Crown appeal of the acquittal on the first-degree murder charges.”

Defence lawyer Gil McKinnon said arguments Monday will focus on a video the Crown wants the judges to view. The Crown wants to show the court a 35-minute video of statements Pickton made to police and undercover officers.

The video has been condensed considerably from the more than 11 hours of footage the jury watched of Pickton’s interview with police after his arrest in February 2002, as well as conversations with an undercover officer in his cell.

The defence is opposed because a transcript of the conversations has already been provided to the court.

The defence arguments will focus primarily on trial judge Justice James Williams’s instructions to the jury on the sixth day of deliberations, when jurors returned with a question.

Ultimately, Williams ended up changing his instruction to the jury, saying he had been “not sufficiently precise” and “in error” in three paragraphs of his original charge.

He told jurors they could consider whether they believed Pickton actually shot some of the victims, or was an active participant but didn’t pull the trigger.

“I regret that I misinformed you,” he said. “It was inadvertent. However, it is important that you be instructed (as) properly as I’m able and thus these amendments have been provided to you.”

The change involved his instructions on the deaths of three of the six women — Abotsway, Wilson and Joesbury. Those three victims’ bisected heads were found near the trailer of the accused. All had been shot in the head.

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 16

Defence opposes Pickton 'confession' video at appeal

By Keith Fraser, Vancouver Province
March 16, 2009 9:02 PM

Vancouver — Prosecutors want to show the B.C. Court of Appeal a 35-minute video of Robert Pickton's statements to police and undercover officers but the move is being opposed by the notorious serial killer's lawyer.

At Pickton's B.C. Supreme Court trial, a jury watched nearly 11 hours of video of the statements and the Crown has produced an edited version to show the Appeal Court panel when the appeal is heard beginning March 30.

B.C. Court of Appeal Chief Justice Lance Finch asked Crown counsel Gregory Fitch why it was so important to show the video when transcripts were available.

Fitch said the answer is that one needs to view the video since it's always been the position of the Crown that the statements amount to a full confession by Pickton.

"Much is lost in simply reading the transcripts. In order to understand the Crown's position, the court will need to look at the video."

But Gil McKinnon, who is representing Pickton during the appeal, told Finch the video did not provide the "proper context" for the 11 hours shown at trial and he will oppose the application.

He said he agreed to excerpts of the statements being included in an agreed statement of facts to assist the court but will not take it to the next step and consent to show an "abbreviated version of the most incriminating aspects of the interrogation."

The defence is appealing Pickton's conviction on six counts of second-degree murder and the Crown is appealing the acquittal of the accused on first-degree murder for the six charges.

Finch heard that the appeal, set to run nine days, will begin with Pickton's appeal in the first week and is to be followed by the Crown appeal in the second week. Six members of the victims' families have said they will attend with another dozen possibly attending.

The next appearance is March 26, when the panel which will hear the appeal will be given a briefing on how the case will unfold.

Pickton still faces 20 additional counts of first-degree murder but the Crown has indicated that only if the defence appeal succeeds will it proceed with a trial on those counts.

© Copyright (c) The Province
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Wednesday, March 11

Inquiry urged for B.C.'s missing women

March 11, 2009

VANCOUVER - A group of native leaders, community activists and victims’ families gathered in Oppenheimer Park this morning to collectively call for a public inquiry into missing and murdered women in British Columbia.

The inquiry should look into the case of the 65 women missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, six of whom serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton has been convicted of killing.

It should also examine the case of 18 murdered or missing women in the so-called Highway of Tears case in rural B.C., Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said in an interview.

Phillip and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association sent letters outlining their request Wednesday to Premier Gordon Campbell, Attorney-General Wally Oppal, and Solicitor General John van Dongan. Victims’ families attended the rally today, and have long believed that society paid little attention to their loved ones vanishing from the Downtown Eastside because they were poor, marginalized women, many of them Aboriginal.

“This situation was allowed to continue a very, very long time. It spanned a couple of decades. Had there been an immediate response on behalf of the Vancouver police, the RCMP and the criminal justice branch, we suggest lives could have been saved,” Phillip said.

Phillip argued the same systemic issues exist in the Highway of Tears case, which has not resulted in any suspects being arrested yet.

Oppal repeated Wednesday what he has said in the past: It is unlikely any inquiry would be held until the Pickton case is no longer before the courts. "I'm really sympathetic to [the victims’ families]. We all want to find out what happened. But the missing women's case is really a part of the Pickton case, and that matter is still before the court of appeal,” Oppal said in Victoria. "We can't order any inquiry, it would be totally improper for us until the courts have finally and completely disposed of the charges."

Pickton was convicted in 2007 of six counts of second-degree murder.

An appeal of the verdict is scheduled for two weeks, starting March 30.

However, Phillip and others fear the case could drag through the courts for years while Pickton exhausts the appeal process.

Pickton has also been charged with killing 20 other missing women, but it is also not clear whether that trial will ever be held.

Waiting several more years for an inquiry would be wrong, “given the frailty of human memories, the loss or destruction of relevant evidence with time, and the retirement or death of key witnesses,” says the letter sent to the politicians.

If the government does not grant an inquiry soon, Phillip said, those in attendance at today’s rally threatened to stage demonstrations during the 2010 Olympics to “draw this to the attention of the international community.”

“The families are sick and tired of being stonewalled,” he added.

David Eby, of the civil liberties association, also called on the government to cover expenses for victims’ families to attend Pickton’s appeal, as it did for the families during his 2007 trial.

And Eby said the group would like assurances that Pickton’s second trial on 20 counts of first-degree murder will proceed.

The government has indicated it may not, should the defence fail in its appeal bid, as Pickton is already serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.


© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
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