Surprise appeal in Pickton case

Mon Jan 7, 2008 6:35pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Prosecutors asked for a new trial for Canadian serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton on Monday, saying he should have faced all 26 murders counts and not just the six he was found guilty of last month.

In a surprise appeal of last month's verdict, prosecutors said the trial judge erred when he ordered the criminal case against the Vancouver-area pig farmer split into two separate trials -- the second of which has yet to begin.

Pickton was convicted in the first trial of the murders of six Vancouver sex trade workers, whose bodies were cut up in his farm's slaughterhouse and some of their remains fed to the animals.

But the jury found Pickton guilty of a reduced charge of second degree murder, and not the first degree murders he was charged with. The lesser charge meant jurors did not believe Pickton planned the killings in advance.

Attorney General Wally Oppal said the appeal was filed largely for strategic reasons, and did not mean prosecutors were saying last month's verdict was wrong.

"I think it is safe to say that we all agree it was a just verdict," Oppal told a news conference.

The former head of the police investigation complained after the verdict that Pickton would have been convicted of first degree murder had jurors heard some of the evidence that was tossed out by Judge James Williams.

The notice filed by prosecutors on Monday asks that Pickton be tried for first degree murder.   Continued...

<p>Robert Pickton is seen in an undated television news grab. Prosecutors are acting strategically by appealing serial killer Pickton's conviction on reduced murder charges, a senior provincial official said on Monday. REUTERS/Global TV</p>