NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. Defence lawyer Adrian Brooks savaged the Crown's case against Robert Pickton yesterday, charging that it was built on a web of lies from drug-addicted witnesses motivated by money and alleged confessions that were not confessions at all.
In particular, Mr. Brooks said sophisticated police interrogators used lies to trap Mr. Pickton, a man of limited intelligence, into making incriminating statements during 11 hours of questioning.
"Who really expects a senior police officer to lie as much as these police officers lied to him?" he asked the jury as he gave final legal voice to his client's plea of innocence on charges of murdering, then butchering, six prostitutes from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
"The problem is that a police interview team may convince a weak-minded individual that he's going to jail for a long time, even though he's not guilty."
During the questioning, Mr. Pickton told police that they would find some bodies on his suburban pig farm and that he got caught because he became sloppy.
Those statements, along with comments made to an undercover officer in his jail cell, form a key chunk of the Crown's case against Mr. Pickton.
According to Mr. Brooks, police put Mr. Pickton under severe pressure, telling him over and over that he would never see his beloved pig farm or his friends again.
When police questions are put into context, "you understand that [his statements are] not a confession at all," he declared.
Using a PowerPoint presentation, the veteran criminal lawyer worked methodically to dismantle the Crown's evidence.
He urged jurors to keep an open mind and ignore the enormous media coverage and depth of public opinion that has swirled around the case for the past five years.
Interest has been fed by the tragic disappearance of scores of women from the Downtown Eastside, discovery of the remains of many on Mr. Pickton's property, and the eventual laying of 26 first-degree murder counts against the 58-year old Port Coquitlam man.
"You can ignore it all [the media and public comment]. You are in the best position of anyone in the world to ... review the evidence and decide upon it."
Mr. Brooks spent much of the day taking apart the testimony of three key Crown witnesses.
Two testified that Mr. Pickton had talked to them about doing away with sex-trade workers, while a third, in one of the most horrific moments of the 11-month trial, said she came upon the accused butchering one of the slain women.
Lynn Ellingsen testified that when she saw the woman hanging from a hook and Mr. Pickton covered in blood, she fled to the home of her friend, Val Foley, and arrived shaking, with blood on her clothing.
But Mr. Brooks reminded the jury that Ms. Foley testified she had no memory of Ms. Ellingsen arriving in such a state.
"One of them's right and one of them's wrong, and it is Ms. Ellingsen who is wrong," Mr. Brooks said. "That dramatic event didn't happen."
Noting Ms. Ellingsen's history of cocaine and alcohol abuse, Mr. Brooks said what she saw hanging from the hook may have simply been a pig.
Mr. Pickton is charged with murdering Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey, Georgina Papin, Andrea Joesbury and Brenda Wolfe. Proceedings on the remaining 20 charges are expected to begin after the current trial.
Mr. Brooks also attacked incriminating statements Mr. Pickton made to police undercover agents and interrogators after his arrest.
"It's not a confession at all," he said.
The three Crown witnesses were "the key civilians" who testified. Mr. Brooks pointed out they all came from the criminal world, they had a history of manipulation, were addicted to crack cocaine, and received money from the Crown.
He listed a number of inconsistencies in their testimony, telling the jury that if they agreed with him that the witnesses lied, their entire testimony should be discounted.
"Some people can tell a lie and it doesn't bother them at all. It looks like it's the easiest thing they've ever done."
Mr. Brooks heaped scorn on Andrew Bellwood, who had told the court that Mr. Pickton talked to him about strangling prostitutes while having sex with them. He said Mr. Pickton then said he cut up the women and fed them to his pigs.
"Do those comments make sense? If he had been told that, one thing you would never do is sit down and have pork chops with Willie Pickton," Mr. Brooks observed, referring to the meal Mr. Bellwood shared that night with the accused.
The defence lawyer said the testimony of the third witness, Scott Chubb, was so worthless the Crown may have to do "a 100-yard dash backwards" to separate its case from his evidence.
The jury is expected to begin its deliberations next week.
With a report from The Canadian Press