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'Red herrings, straw men and a bogeyman'

Crown begins summation, scorning Pickton defence arguments that challenge evidence

From Friday's Globe and Mail

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — There is no doubt that Robert Pickton murdered six women from the Downtown Eastside, dismembered them and disposed of their remains, Crown prosecutor Michael Petrie told a B.C. Supreme Court jury yesterday.

Their body parts were found in the domain of a single person, cut up in similar fashion by a butcher who had the means, the ability and the opportunity to do so, said Mr. Petrie, referring to Mr. Pickton.

As he began his final argument in the long trial of the suburban pig farmer on six counts of first-degree murder, Mr. Petrie said it was important not to forget who the victims were.

All were connected to the Downtown Eastside, all were drug-addicted, all were prostitutes, he said.

"They would do anything to better their lives, money-wise and security-wise," Mr. Petrie said.

"They would take chances we can barely understand. Whatever we think of their lifestyle, they all ended up dead in Port Coquitlam in the accused's backyard.

"The Crown's position is that [one] person killed and disposed of them. And that single person is the accused."

As the 10-month trial began to near its end, there was a return to some of the heartfelt emotions that surfaced last January when the trial commenced.

When the name of one of the dead women, Marnie Frey, appeared on the court's large PowerPoint screen during defence lawyer Adrian Brook's closing submission, Ms. Frey's 15-year-old daughter Brittney quickly left the courtroom in tears.

Moments later, Elana Papin was overcome by tears when Mr. Brooks began to talk about her sister, Georgina Papin, whose remains were also found on Mr. Pickton's farm.

Outside, Lori-Ann Ellis, whose sister-in-law was one of 20 other missing women that Mr. Pickton is charged with murdering, said that sitting in the courtroom is tough.

"I've grown close to these families, and it's really difficult to see anybody in pain. I'd be a sad excuse for a person, if I wasn't upset by some of this."

Back inside, the lead prosecutor scorned arguments advanced during the past 3½ days by Mr. Brooks that considerable evidence points to other possible suspects in the grisly killings.

"Do you accept that someone else snuck onto that farm with a bunch of body parts ... and that bogeyman put heads, hands and feet in containers, all under the nose of Mr. Pickton?" Mr. Petrie demanded of the jury.

"And that person then scattered other bones around ... and that somehow this real murderer got into Mr. Pickton's trailer and put the personal belongings of various victims there and around his place?

"It's my submission that you are not going to entertain that bizarre theory," he said.

Mr. Petrie accused the defence of using "red herrings, straw men and a bogeyman" to add complexity to a case that is basically very simple.

In a rare moment of light-heartedness amid the grim proceedings that have unfolded in the small, cramped courthouse here, Mr. Petrie played down the often contradictory testimony of some key Crown witnesses by comparing it to a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

It's possible to separate the truth from the lies, rather than rejecting all of their evidence, he said, just as it's possible to "pick out the Oreos from the ice cream" in a Blizzard.

Mr. Petrie's presentation followed the end of Mr. Brooks's final arguments for the defence.

In the same calm, measured tones he used throughout, Mr. Pickton's lawyer concluded his lengthy assessment of the evidence with an unequivocal call for the jury to acquit his client.

"You have the strength of the evidence, the evidence that tells you clearly, loudly, there is a reasonable doubt," Mr. Brooks said.

Referring to the ironclad legal principle that the Crown must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, Mr. Brooks said the case against Mr. Pickton is filled with such doubt.

Even if they feel that Mr. Pickton "might have" committed the murders or even "probably" committed them, "your duty is to acquit him," Mr. Brooks reminded the seven men and five women hearing the case.

Earlier, Mr. Brooks urged the jury to rewatch the videos of Mr. Pickton's interrogation by police and his jail cell conversations with an undercover police office. While in custody, Mr. Pickton made a number of incriminating statements.

"When you first saw them, you knew so little about this case," Mr. Brooks said. "Now, you know so much ... .You will see them with completely different eyes."

Jurors are now aware of Mr. Pickton's low intelligence, the sophisticated techniques of police, his life patterns and "his feeble-minded attempts to fit in with [the undercover agent he thought was a hardened criminal]," the defence lawyer said, suggesting that the damaging admissions were tricked out of him.

Mr. Petrie told the court he expects to complete his presentation on Monday.

Mr. Justice James Williams has indicated his concluding charge to the jury will take three days, before the matter of Mr. Pickton's guilt or innocence will be finally given to the jury to decide.

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