For nearly a year Canadians watched and listened, sometimes in horror, as a court heard graphic testimony from the first-degree murder trial of Robert Pickton in New Westminster, B.C.
On Sunday the jury announced it had found Mr. Pickton guilty of six counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of six drug-addicted prostitutes who disappeared between August, 1997, and December, 2001, from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Veteran reporter Robert Matas has covered the trial for The Globe and Mail from the jury selection in December 2006, to its beginnings in January 2007 and the verdict this past weekend. He listened as one witness after another described detailed lists of DNA evidence, graphic accounts of human remains found in various buildings and stories of the comings and goings on the Pickton property.
Although Mr. Matas can't respond to specifics about the legal arguments, or speculate on the jury's motives behind its decision, or Mr. Pickton's guilt or innocence, we are happy he has agreed to take questions from readers about other aspects of the trial. How tight was security at the courthouse? What did Mr. Pickton do each day in the courtroom? Were victim's families on hand the entire time? What about international media?
Send your questions now, and return on Thursday after 4 p.m. EST to read Mr. Matas' replies. plus follow the breaking news for the next two days including victim impact statements and the sentencing of Robert Pickton.
Robert Matas has been with The Globe since 1980 and has worked from its Vancouver bureau since 1988. He also covered the massive Air India trial.
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Christine Diemert, globeandmail.com: Thanks Robert, for taking some time out to answer questions for our readers. Restrictions imposed by the court do not allow us to talk about anything that the jury did not hear and we won't speculate on the reasons behind the sentencing or the verdict in the Robert Pickton case, however, that still leaves us with a lot we can discuss.
I'd start by asking about covering such a long, detailed and often troubling proceeding. How is it possible to return day after day when you know what some of the testimony will include?
Robert Matas: The courtroom was a highly emotionally charged environment. The 12-member jury and gaggle of lawyers were exposed to the most graphic evidence. They were required to look closely at photographs of remains found on the property in order to see what had been done and to compare marks on bones. However, the public, including the media was not allowed to see the photographs.
Of course, it was dramatic enough without firsthand knowledge, just listening to witnesses and lawyers talking about the horrific evidence. The challenge as a journalist is to convey the horror to the readers in an effort to enable those who are not in the courtroom to know what is going on.
Christine Diemert writes: Was it difficult to remain neutral while listening to witnesses and watching Mr. Pickton week after week?
Robert Matas: I have my opinions. But as a reporter, I try to be fair and balanced, without giving undue weight to my perspective.
Christine Diemert: What type of relationship did the media have with the families, the lawyers and the police?
Robert Matas: Several family members resented the media. They were upset by what was reported in the media about their family. Who wouldn't be? Other families appreciated the impact that the media could have and were prepared to have their comments reported. Almost all media took its lead from the families and backed away from those who were resentful of the intrusions.
The lawyers occasionally spoke to media. The prosecutors had a lawyer who was their official spokesperson, Stan Lowe. The defence team spokesman was lead lawyer Peter Ritchie. Neither made extensive comments during the trial, leaving their statements for the court.