VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton did not get a fair trial when he was convicted of the brutal murders of six women at his pig farm in Canada, his lawyer said on Monday.
Errors during the 11-month trial, including the judge's answer to the jury's only question during its deliberations, warrant giving Pickton a new trial, attorney Gil McKinnon told an appeals court in Vancouver.
"There are serious errors of law or serious irregularities, McKinnon told the court, saying it struck at the justice system's "core value" that a defendant has a right to a fair trial "no matter how heinous the allegations."
Pickton was found convicted of second degree murder in 2007 for killing six prostitutes who were lured to the ramshackle farm near Vancouver, then killed and butchered in a slaughterhouse, with their remains fed to the pigs.
He still faces a second trial for an additional 20 murders, and police say he may have been responsible for the disappearance of more than 60 women from the early 1990s to late 2001.
The trial court judge divided the case into two trials at the defense's request in a bid to make it easier for a jury to handle.
Relatives of some of the victims were at the court in downtown Vancouver on Monday for the start of what is expected to be a nine-day appeals court trial.
"We haven't got closure yet ... but I'll just keep coming back until everything's over. Until we're completely satisfied," said Cynthia Cardinal, whose sister Georgina Papin disappeared 10 years ago.
In an unusual legal move, the 2007 verdict has also been appealed by prosecutors who had asked the jury to convict Pickton of the more serious charge of first degree murder.
The prosecution appeal is seen largely as a legal tactic that would allow them to refile the more serious charge in the event the defense appeal is successful.
Pickton, who is not attending the appeals court trial, was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole for 25 years. Canada has no death penalty.
Writing by Allan Dowd; Editing by Eric Walsh