The Defense demands a new trial for a miscarriage of justice
by Audrey Nolin Sotiriadis
The Law, Society and Justice Student Association went on a one-day-trip to Ottawa on March 25 to attend the Robert Pickton murder trial at the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 2007, Pickton was found guilty of the murder of six prostitutes on his farm in British Columbia. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
Pickton’s lawyer argued that improper instructions by the trial judge to the jury that convicted the British Columbia pig farmer justified a request for a new trial during a hearing before the full Bench of the Supreme Court.
Defense lawyer Gil McKinnon insisted on the importance of a question that the jury asked the trial judge on the sixth day of deliberation. The jury wanted to know if they could conclude that Pickton was guilty even though he might have had some help in the killings. This suggested that there was a possibility that other individuals were involved in the killings and that Pickton was not necessarily the shooter. According to McKinnon, the judge’s answer to the jury caused confusion.
“I say it’s too broad. It could have gone further,” said McKinnon.
The Justices asked defense lawyer McKinnon tough questions. McKinnon who insisted that his client was a victim of a miscarriage of justice. They contradicted McKinnon and suggested that Pickton got a fair trial and that no miscarriage of justice took place.
The Justices questioned whether the instruction of the trial judge was faulty and if it really influenced Pickton’s conviction.
“You’ve spent a lot of time on errors of the Crown. Where is the prejudice?” Justice Charron asked.
Crown lawyer Gregory Fitch argued that whether or not Pickton was the main killer, he still actively participated in the butchery of the victims. Fitch also quoted Pickton’s admission. “I got caught because I became sloppy” which shows a confessed murderer.
Fitch stressed the fact that the evidence at the trial was more than sufficient to keep Pickton in jail and that there was no need for another trial.
Fitch also insisted on the fact that the jury needed to understand that whether or not the appellant or a third party might have caused the deaths, as long as Pickton actively participated in the killings, his intent was present and he should be found guilty.
“Whatever occurred, it occurred six times,” Fitch said.
Chief Justice McLachlin said that as long as the trial was fair, it was very possible that the previous judge’s faulty instructions to the jury would not have influenced the verdict and as such there would be no valid reason to review Pickton’s rights.
“There was a harmless error that had no affect on the verdict,”said Fitch. “ This trial isn’t unfair.”
The court will render its decision in three to six months. For more information on the trial, visit www2.canada.com/thepro