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Week 30: Pickton chooses not to take the stand in his own defence

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C.

During the 30th week of Robert Pickton's first-degree murder trial the jury heard he would not testify in his own defence to respond to the grisly evidence that had been heard over nine months.

Mr. Pickton, 57, sat in the prisoner's box listening to 98 prosecution witnesses and 30 defence witnesses with a notepad on his lap, occasionally taking notes. He showed almost no emotion throughout the months as witnesses gave graphic evidence related to the horrific deaths of six drug-addicted prostitutes that he is accused of murdering.

Mr. Pickton listened intently to others talk about his life, his work, his home and his relationships with women. He did not appear to be bothered by anything they were saying about him.

After hearing testimony from the final witness for the defence, Mr. Justice James Williams dismissed the jury until final arguments were to be heard. The lawyers in the case and the judge used a month-long hiatus in the trial to deal with outstanding legal issues and prepare the final addresses to the jury.

Judge Williams told court he intended to provide the jury with a comprehensive review of the evidence and instructions on the law. “You will be tired of hearing my voice,” he said.

Judge Williams cautioned the jurors not talk to anyone about the case during the break in the proceedings. “There is no upside to talking to anyone,” he said, echoing a warning he gave jurors earlier in the month.

The judge also advised them to refrain from making any decisions about the case while they were away from the court. The time to make a decision is after they have heard all the evidence and the final addresses, he said.

Lawyers for the prosecution and defence appeared relieved the trial had moved into its final stage.

“It's been a long nine months,” lead defence lawyer Peter Ritchie told reporters outside the courthouse. “Anyone who has been involved in this case would like to see the end of this case as soon as we can reasonably do it.''

Unlike the start of the trial, only three people were in the public gallery to hear the completion of evidence. Seats reserved for family members were empty.

Neither Mr. Pickton's brother Dave nor his sister Linda testified at the trial. Those who testified as part of the defence case – mostly neighbours, business associates and friends of Dave – offered the jury a very different portrayal of Mr. Pickton than was previously provided by the prostitutes and drug addicts who testified for the prosecution.

Defence witnesses described Mr. Pickton sympathetically as a simple, uneducated man, a generous friend and a hard worker who rarely took any time off or socialized with others.

Prosecution witnesses had portrayed Mr. Pickton as a pig butcher who lured prostitutes to his isolated property with money for narcotics to feed their addiction.

Earlier that day, defence witness Larry Krywaniuk confirmed that Mr. Pickton's IQ score was 86, based on a well-accepted IQ test. The range of normal, which includes about two-thirds of the North American population, stretches from a score of 85 to 115.

But there's more to it, Dr. Krywaniuk fired back during cross-examination by prosecutor Mike Petrie. The bare number of 86 has to be qualified, he said. Although Mr. Pickton scored well in the non-verbal performance section of the test that relates to visual and motor skills, his verbal abilities were far below those of most people in the general population. The level at which he can understand and process information is low, Dr. Krywaniuk said.

The wide discrepancy between the results raises questions about whether the IQ score of 86 can be trusted. “It's questionable. It's not very meaningful,” Dr. Krywaniuk said.

Dr. Krywaniuk was called as a witness for the defence as an expert on the administration and interpretation of intelligence tests. Defence lawyers have told the jury that Mr. Pickton's intelligence should be considered when assessing the allegedly incriminating remarks Mr. Pickton made after he was arrested.

Mr. Pickton, 57, did a standard IQ test in February of 2006. In response to questioning by defence lawyer Adrian Brooks, Dr. Krywaniuk told the jury that Mr. Pickton's score on the test showed he was among the lowest 10 per cent of the population in areas such as understanding the meaning of words, concentration, reaching conclusions and abstract reasoning.

Mr. Pickton was “very good” on the performance-test portions, near the top of the average range, Dr. Krywaniuk said.

The discrepancy suggested that something was wrong in the way his brain functions, Dr. Krywaniuk said. “There is something going wrong ... in his thinking process.”

Results from two other tests administered by Dr. Krywaniuk were inconsistent. A test on language functioning in February of 2006 showed he was functioning at the level of a Grade 5 child who was 11 years, three months old. Mr. Pickton did a revised version of the test in September of 2007.

The test showed that Mr. Pickton's verbal functioning was equivalent to a Grade 12 student who was 19 years, seven months old, Dr. Krywaniuk said.

Mr. Pickton is charged with the murder of six drug-addicted prostitutes from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

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