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Travis Vader verdict won't stand, say some legal experts — latest twist in troubled murder case - 17 Sep 2016 17:43


[[html]]As an Alberta Court of Queens Bench justice wrapped up the lengthy, sometimes chaotic Travis Vader murder trial by handing down a second-degree murder guilty verdict Thursday, his decision was already under fire from some criminal law experts. <br><br>Justice Denny Thomas commended the RCMP for a job well done, months after describing parts of the investigation as bungling in a different decision.<br><br>I became increasingly impressed by how the RCMP investigation of Mr. Vader wove a credible, albeit circumstantial web where Mr. Vader was the obvious suspect, Thomas wrote.<br><br>Earlier this year, Thomas denied a defence application to have the charge against Vader judicially stayed, following a lengthy abuse of process hearing, but said it had been a very close call.<br><br>The massive investigation into the McCanns 2010 disappearance involved 600 police officers and multiple undercover operations. Court documents show hundreds of officers investigated tips, watched Vaders family, intercepted his in-custody communications, seized vehicles, met with informants and produced thousands of documents, videos and audio recordings. <br><br>As the investigation ballooned in size, disclosure of prosecution material to the defence became problematic. Complicated by Vader changing defence lawyers numerous times, the RCMP discovered late in the process they hadnt disclosed all the necessary materials.<br><br>Vaders lawyer, Brian Beresh, was still asking for disclosure only weeks before the double-murder trial was scheduled to begin in April 2014. That March, Beresh received 5,000 pages of new material not previously disclosed to the defence. The late disclosure forced the prosecution to stay the murder charges. Months later, RCMP again charged Vader with killing the McCanns.<br><br>Beresh argued this was an abuse of process, but Thomas didnt accept that.<br><br>In his written ruling last January, Thomas acknowledged an obvious and serious failure in the disclosure process by the RCMP, but ruled the bungling was unintentional negligence and not an abuse of process. Thomas also rejected the argument there had been an unreasonable delay.<br><br>With his guilty verdict Thursday, which was live-streamed from the courtroom, Thomas again sided with the Crown, though he said he could not conclude the Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Vader was guilty of first-degree murder. <br><br>Thomas ultimately accepted the bulk of the Crowns argument, and chose to find Vader guilty on two counts of second-degree murder, citing Section 230 of the Criminal Code.<br><br>Criminal law experts on social media pointed out Section 230, though it still exists, had been struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1990. It had stated that second-degree murder can be committed if a death occurs, even unintentionally, in the course of committing another crime. <br><br>University of Alberta law school professor Peter Sankoff set off a social media storm with his tweets.<br><br>Speaking to Postmedia, Sankoff called Thomas error unbelievable. Vader might well be guilty of manslaughter, he said, but not of second-degree murder, at least not on the basis of Thomas legal and factual argument.<br><br>Its just a staggering thing, said Sankoff. Its mind-boggling. This murder verdict cant stand. <br><br>Immediately after the verdict, Beresh said there were errors in the judgment, and that the defence team planned to appeal. He later told Postmedia he is considering asking for a mistrial. <br><br>Beresh said he plans to file an appeal Friday.<br><br>Crown prosecutor Ashley Finlayson initially said he was pleased with the ruling, and that he was glad Thomas had accepted each little bit of the circumstantial evidence that led to the whole picture. Later in the day, the Crown Prosecutors Office said it could not comment on the Section 230 issue, as the matter is before the court. <br><br>&#13;With files from Paula Simons and Tony Blais<br><br>moc.aidemtsop|snosrapp#moc.aidemtsop|snosrapp<br><br>&#13;<br><br>[[/html]] - Comments: 0

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