Feb 15

Lawyer says B.C. serial killer Cody Legebokoff deserves new trial

VANCOUVER – A lawyer for a British Columbia man convicted of killing three women and a teenage girl says his client deserves a new trial because the judge made disparaging remarks about defence counsel that were only made public after a sentence was imposed.

ChangSha Night Net

Cody Legebokoff was given life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years by a Prince George, B.C., judge, 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 despite the evidence against Legebokoff, the appearance of unfairness at trial means the case must be heard again.

“This is a horrific case with overwhelming Crown evidence. This is the kind of case that would be easy to dismiss an appeal. We’re saying there’s nothing wrong with the verdict. But that’s not what this appeal is about. This appeal is about the system and the public confidence in the system,” he told a three-judge panel.

“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 moved to 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.

READ MORE: ‘I couldn’t be there for her’: Father of teen murdered by Cody Legebokoff speaks

He said his client should have been made aware before the trial that the judge thought his lawyer’s behaviour was unethical. Gottardi said he was not arguing that his client faced actual prejudice, but rather the appearance of unfairness amounts to a miscarriage of justice.

All three judges on the panel grilled Gottardi on his argument, questioning whether trial judges should be required to reveal every concern they have about lawyers’ behaviour.

“It seems to me for your argument to hold together, there must be an affirmative duty on a trial judge to express those concerns any time they arise,” said Justice David Frankel.

Crown lawyer David Layton said it’s crucial that Gottardi hasn’t asserted definitively that Legebokoff would have sought other counsel or brought a bias application to remove the judge if he had disclosed his criticisms earlier.

Layton said Gottardi’s argument is merely that Legebokoff was denied the opportunity to “consider his options,” and that doesn’t meet the high legal test for perception of unfairness.

“The trial judge didn’t have any duty to disclose this information any earlier than he did,” Layton told the court.

Legebokoff’s trial heard that there was considerable physical evidence linking him to the murders.

Legebokoff’s clothing contained the DNA of Montgomery and Maas, while DNA matching Stuchenko was found in Legebokoff’s apartment. The trial heard that identification belonging to Leslie and a blood-stained pipe wrench and knife were also found in the man’s truck.

Family members of Leslie and Maas listened quietly in the courtroom on Wednesday.

— Follow @ellekane on 桑拿会所.

Feb 15

5 things to watch for at upcoming Tory convention

OTTAWA – Hundreds of federal Conservative party members gather in Vancouver on Thursday for a three-day policy convention.

It’s their first meeting since the fall election that saw leader Stephen Harper leave his job after losing government to the Liberals.

Here are five things to watch for:

1) Harper’s speech

The former prime minister is set to address the convention on Thursday night. It’s his first public speech in Canada since he lost the election and stepped down as party leader. He’s kept a low profile in Ottawa since and is expected to do the same at the convention after his brief address. It may be the last time for the party to hear from him as an MP, as he is expected to resign his seat in the Commons in the coming weeks.

WATCH: Stephen Harper to leave the political scene 

2) Leadership candidates

The convention is a prime opportunity for people seeking to replace interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose at the party’s helm to make connections and for party members to get a measure of the candidates. Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier and Michael Chong are the only three candidates officially registered and are sure to have a high profile on and off the convention floor. But others thinking about a bid will also be making the rounds, including TV personality and businessman Kevin O’Leary.

Michael Chong on his Conservative leadership bid: There is a new Canada rising

01:11

Michael Chong on his Conservative leadership bid: There is a new Canada rising

00:44

MPs Leitch, Bernier announce run for federal Conservative leadership

02:40

Michael Chong announces he’s seeking the leadership of the Conservative Party



3) Rona Ambrose

While Ambrose has appeared to squelch a drive to get her to run for the leadership, it may not be dead yet. A petition seeking to change the party’s constitution to allow interim leaders to run for the permanent job continues to circulate. If there’s enough support, it could be brought forward at a constitutional workshop session on Friday and, if it passed there, handed over to the general membership for a vote.

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4) Party policy

There are dozens of proposed policy changes set to be debated. One that many are closely watching is a bid to drop language from the existing platform that says the party supports legislation defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Several riding associations are seeking to have that section deleted, arguing it’s no longer necessary to have a divisive policy on the books.

READ MORE: Guns, environment, other policies up for debate at Tory convention

5) Grassroots power

Many convention delegates are headed to Vancouver seeking to return more control over party affairs to the rank-and-file membership. Several constitutional amendments suggest a there is lot of tension over how Harper and party brass ran the show. Delegates are arguing for more transparency and oversight on how the party spends its money, elects its leadership and other issues.