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Carefully review police videotapes, judge instructs jury

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — The judge at Robert Pickton's first-degree-murder trial told jurors to watch the videotapes and make up their own minds about what Mr. Pickton meant when he made a hand gesture indicating the number 50 during a conversation with an undercover police officer.

Jurors will have access to the recordings of police interrogating Mr. Pickton after his arrest in 2002 and of Mr. Pickton's conversations with an undercover officer in his cell, Mr. Justice James Williams said yesterday during his second day of instructions to the jury as the 10-month trial moves to a close. Videotapes and transcripts of the interrogation and conversations offer jurors the best evidence available, short of being in the room with the participants, the judge said.

"I expect you will wish to review them. In fact, considering its importance in the submissions of counsel, I suggest it is imperative that you do so," Judge Williams said.

"It's your task to determine what impact these statements had in this case ... [taking] into consideration positions that both Crown and defence had put in their addresses," he said.

When listening to the recordings, jurors should consider what Mr. Pickton meant with the words he spoke and whether he was being truthful, Judge Williams said.

"If you conclude the words in either or both of the statements are an admission of responsibility for the murders of women, and you conclude he was speaking them truthfully, you can use both statements in determining whether the Crown has proven its case against Mr. Pickton," Judge Williams said.

Police questioned Mr. Pickton for more than 11 hours on Feb. 23, 2002. After the interrogation, he was placed in a cell with an undercover police officer who engaged him in conversation. The Crown case against Mr. Pickton includes several allegedly incriminating statements that Mr. Pickton made during those sessions.

During a conversation with the undercover officer, Mr. Pickton held up five fingers of his right hand and formed a zero with his index finger and thumb. He pointed to himself and then put a finger to his lips, suggesting his cellmate should remain quiet. When his cellmate quizzically said "50," Mr. Pickton nodded and smiled.

Mr. Pickton later indicated to the undercover officer that he disposed of bodies by taking them to a rendering plant. He said he was going to do one more murder, to make it 50. His plan was to let everything quiet down and then do another 25 new ones. But he got sloppy and he was caught, he said.

Defence lawyers have told the jury that Mr. Pickton had limited intelligence and was parroting back information that police first said to him.

Judge Williams advised the jury that they could believe all, some or none of what Mr. Pickton said.

They should not disregard the statements even if their sense of fairness was offended by the length of the 11-hour police interrogation without a break or by the undercover agent trying to persuade Mr. Pickton to say things he would not otherwise have said, the judge told the jury.

If they felt Mr. Pickton had been worn down and exhausted, they should consider the impact of that on the meaning and truthfulness of Mr. Pickton's remarks. Consider for yourself whether Mr. Pickton was tired, he said.

Judge Williams also advised the jury that several other factors raised by the defence, such as some police techniques, should be considered in terms of their impact on meaning and truthfulness, not to dismiss the statements.

The police lied to Mr. Pickton on several occasions during the interrogation, including when an officer told Mr. Pickton he would be truthful with him, the judge said. Police also misrepresented some events.

However, police are not prohibited from lying or misrepresentation, he said, adding that they should not disregard the statement because untruthfulness occurred.

"The jury is to consider if such conduct has an effect on the truthfulness of what Mr. Pickton says," the judge said. "The only issue is what is the impact on the truthfulness of what he says."

Later, Judge Williams indicated the jury will be sent to consider its verdict tomorrow, after he concludes his instructions and review of the evidence.

Mr. Pickton is on trial for the murder of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Georgina Papin, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey.

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