UPDATED: Supreme Court decides no new Pickton trial
Tri-City News file photo
By Sarah Payne - The Tri-City News
Published: July 29, 2010 10:00 AM
Updated: July 30, 2010 3:50 PM
On the sixth day of deliberations in December of 2007, the jury in the Robert Pickton case sent a message to Justice James Williams. They had a question.
Could they find Pickton was guilty if they inferred that he "acted indirectly" in the murders of six women at his Port Coquitlam pig farm?
The judge replied the jury could indeed, if they found Pickton was "otherwise an active participant" in Canada's worst multiple murder case.
Three days later, the seven-man, five-woman B.C. Supreme Court jury found Pickton guilty of six counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey, most of them street prostitutes with drug problems.
Williams sentenced Pickton to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence but allows for the possibility of parole after as little as 10 years.
However, the judge agreed with the Crown that the maximum sentence was required because of the uniqueness of the case.
The trial in a New Westminster courtroom lasted nearly a year.
On Friday, in a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the verdict and dismissed a defence application for a new trial.
The defence complained when the judge said what he said to the jury, it opened up new avenues for conviction that ran counter to the Crown's theory Pickton acted alone.
The Supreme Court judges said the evidence of Pickton's involvement in the murders was "overwhelming" and it didn't matter if anyone else helped.
"This case was never about whether the accused had a minor role in the killing of the victims," the judges wrote. "It was about whether or not he had actually killed them."
The panel noted the defence had suggested other people might have been involved in the murders during the trial.
The ruling means the families of the six victims won't have to go through a second trial, but it means the families of the 20 other murdered women will never get to see Pickton answer for their deaths in court.
That's because the judge decided to proceed with just six of the charges against Pickton to save time.
After the conviction of Pickton on second degree murder, Crown prosecutors appealed the ruling and won the right to try him for first degree murder on all 26 cases together.
But the application for that new trial was put on hold pending the Supreme Court of Canada decision, and the provincial government has said there will be no trial on the remaining 20 cases if Pickton lost.
At the time, then-B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal said it would not be in the public interest to proceed further against someone already serving six life terms because nothing further would be gained.
Pickton is serving his time at Kent maximum-security prison in Agassiz.
One of the six victims Pickton was convicted of killing was a Surrey resident, Sereena Abotsway.
Another Surrey woman, Heather Gabrielle Chinnock, was among the 20 other victims.
Abotsway's Surrey foster parents, Anna and Bert Draayers, last heard from her just before her 30th birthday Aug. 20, 2001.
The Draayers described their foster daughter as an emotionally wounded, abused child, who never got the counselling she needed while she was in their care.
Chinnock, a 30-year-old Surrey resident, was reported missing in July of 2002 following an argument with her boyfriend, who said she stormed out of their Surrey residence without taking any clothes or other personal possessions.
The boyfriend told CTV News Vancouver that Chinnock was a regular visitor to the Port Coquitlam pig farm owned by Pickton.
By Dan Ferguson
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