Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Killer of 3 Women, Teen Didn't Get a Fair Trial, Lawyer Tells Appeal Court

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Killer of 3 Women, Teen Didn't Get a Fair Trial, Lawyer Tells Appeal Court

Article excerpt

Lawyer says killer deserves new trial

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VANCOUVER - A British Columbia man convicted of killing three women and a teenage girl deserves a new trial because a judge failed to disclose concerns about his defence counsel's "unethical behaviour" until after he had been sentenced, a lawyer argued Wednesday.

Cody Legebokoff was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years by a judge in Prince George, B.C., for the first-degree murders of 15-year-old Loren Leslie, 23-year-old Natasha Montgomery and Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas, who were both 35.

His lawyer Eric Gottardi told the B.C. Court of Appeal on Wednesday that even though the case against Legebokoff was "horrific," and the evidence "overwhelming," the appearance of unfairness at the trial means it must be heard again.

"This appeal is about the system and the public confidence in the system," said Gottardi, who wasn't Legebokoff's trial lawyer. "This was a slam-dunk Crown case. The judge should have bent over backwards to ensure the accused had a fair trial, and he didn't. This verdict cannot be allowed to stand on that basis."

His argument hinged on the judge's rejection of a defence application in 2012 to have the trial heard in Vancouver. The written reasons for the ruling were only released after Legebokoff was convicted and sentenced in 2014.

Justice Glen Parrett said in those reasons that Legebokoff's counsel had exaggerated and distorted evidence in the application to have the trial moved. He described the defence lawyer's arguments as "misleading" and a "recasting of reality," said Gottardi.

He argued that the judge should have informed Legebokoff before the trial that he thought his lawyer's behaviour was unethical, so that Legebokoff could have considered retaining a new lawyer or filing a bias application to have Parrett removed.

During Wednesday's hearing, the Crown and Gottardi agreed that Parrett's characterization of Legebokoff's defence counsel was wrong and that the lawyer hadn't misled the court. …

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