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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to give serial killer Robert Pickton more legal leeway in appealing his conviction in the brutal murder of six Vancouver sex trade workers.
Pickton contends he was denied a fair trial because of mistakes made by the judge, including instructions given to the jury. An appeals court upheld the conviction, but was divided on the issue, sending the case to the Supreme Court.
The top court's ruling on Thursday allows Pickton's lawyers to present a broader legal argument in the automatic appeal, and should make it easier for them to argue that he was wrongfully convicted as the only person responsible for the murders.
Pickton, 59, was convicted in 2007 of second degree murder in the deaths of six women that he lured to his pig farm near Vancouver. He murdered them there and then butchered the bodies in a slaughterhouse to dispose of the remains.
He is charged with 20 other murders, but prosecutors have said those trials will not be held unless the convictions in the first six cases are overturned. He was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole for 25 years.
The victims were among more than 60 female sex trade workers and drug addicts who disappeared from Vancouver's poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood over more than a decade until Pickton's arrest in 2002.
Pickton, who usually used the name "Willie" Pickton, was the only person charged in connection with the killings.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the appeal on March 25, 2010. The justices issued Thursday's decision on the scope of the appeal without comment, which is the normal practice.
Reporting by Allan Dowd, editing by Peter Galloway