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Earlier Q&A

Covering the Pickton trial

Continued from Page 2

However the court imposed the maximum penalty provided under the Criminal Code for second-degree murder. Mr. Pickton will be eligible to apply for full parole 25 years after he was arrested on Feb. 22, 2002, that is in February 2027. He can apply for day parole in 2024.

Those who comment on events 25 years from now say that it is highly unlikely that a parole board would ever approve any type of parole for Mr. Pickton. Of course it is impossible to say what a parole board will do in 2032. Mr. Pickton may also be taken out of prison for a medical emergency. The National Parole Board has discretionary power to provide a temporary release on humanitarian grounds to attend a funeral in the family.

Christine Diemert writes: This trial was also a media marathon. In the early days it attracted a lot of international press, but that seemed to slow down after a few days only to ramp up again in the final week. Can you describe what it was like logistically to cover this trial? And how many reporters were there from beginning to end?

Robert Matas: The public gallery had a section of seats set aside for the media. In order to claim one of the seats, representatives of a media outlet had to register with the court services office, provide information for a security check and submit forms from our employer. Once registered, we had to go each morning before entering the courthouse to a media room, about a block away, and sign in on two forms. An armed sheriff would give us a colour-coded pass after we signed in. Each day, we needed a new pass.

At the courthouse, a security gate similar to an airport security gate was set up at the door. In addition to looking through everything in your pockets, the armed sheriffs monitored the beeps on the metal detector as we stepped through. A sheriff would then pass a wand over you in order to pick up anything missed by the metal detector.

Once we were in the building, we could line up again for a secondary security check to enter the courtroom. The second security check was similar to the security check at the door, with one exception. The armed sheriffs ensured that nothing larger than a large notebook was taken into the courtroom. We could not take in computers, although we were allowed to have tape recorders and Blackberries.

Once we got this far, there was only one more step. We were kept in a vestibule outside the courtroom until the lawyers had entered. Then we had to show the passes we received from the media room to another armed sheriff. Finally, we could take a seat and prepare to do our job.

The process was even more convoluted for reporters who did not attend court regularly. On many days during the early months of the trial and in the final days, the courtroom did not have enough seats for all the media that showed up. Several media outlets had a guarantee of a seat in the courtroom. But many did not. Those who had a seat were required to pick up their passes at least half-an-hour before court began. If a pass was not picked up in the media room, the seat would be available to other media.

Sometimes, even that would not be enough to accommodate all those from the news media who wanted to cover the trial. Reporters who did not receive a pass had a few other options. They could watch the testimony on video terminals set up in the media room. Alternately, they could go to an "overflow" courtroom adjacent to the Pickton court. The overflow courtroom was often used by court watchers, family and friends of the victims.

More than 300 media representatives - reporters, photographers, TV producers etc. registered to cover the trial before it started. The media seats were filled at the beginning of the trial and in the final days. During weeks in the middle, only four or five reporters showed up.

Christine Diemert: Thanks Robert for answering the questions today.  

Robert Matas: Thanks for asking.

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