What Happened in the Robert Pickton Case?
Refer back to Handout 1: Evidence in the Courts. Ask students how can we analyze the case on the basis of the evidence presented in court and recounted in the media? Only those in the courtroom will be able to determine whether the evidence is valid, whether it has been properly gathered, identified, analyzed and preserved.
Most of us will have to depend on the judge and jurors to make that assessment. We will have to rely on media reports and eventually court reports. Until then we need to listen to broadcast and read newspaper reports in order to process as much of the detail as possible to come to our own decisions in the case. In an editorial passage found on the Sun’s website on the case at www.canada.com/vancouversun/features/pickton/index.html, Patricia Graham, the Sun’s Editor-In Chief, wrote a letter describing the strategy that the newspaper used when reporting on this case. Have students read it and decide whether they think the newspaper delivered on its commitment. Then have students research the verdict in this case and answer the following discussion questions:
- The Sun has featured many stories of the victims in this case – did that kind of reporting prejudice the case against the accused?
- Find out how the jury members were selected and suggest how they might have remained neutral in the face of such widespread coverage of the crimes, victims and the trial.
- Do you think that the accused’s Charter rights were violated in this case? Check out Sections 7-15 of the Charter (fundamental legal rights) and recall the interview process that took place shortly after his arrest, the tapes of which were played in court.
- The forensic evidence against the accused piled up during the case. What did the judge have to do to ensure that the trial remained a fair and impartial hearing of the case? Why should the public reserve judgment until the end of the trial?
- How do you think the defence counsel served the interests of the accused?
- Do you think it was appropriate to spend enormous amounts of money to protect the rights of the accused in this case? Discuss the implications of the phrase, “Everyone has the right to a fair trial.”
- Do some research on DNA evidence in the field of forensics and write a short speech to present to the class on your findings. You could call the Vancouver Police Museum or visit it to obtain more information on this topic.