Pickton verdict evokes 'elation,' 'disappointment' from victims' friends, family
Candlelight vigil held outside court after guilty verdict
Screams of "No!" pierced the courtroom, followed by muted cheers as a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Robert William Pickton not guilty of first-degree murder but convicted him of six counts of second-degree murder.
Pickton, a pig farmer from Port Coquitlam, B.C., was found guilty on Sunday in the deaths ofsix women who went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside: Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Ann Wolfe, Marnie Frey and Georgina Papin. He also faces trial at a later date on first-degree charges involving 20 other women.
After the verdict, some friends and family members spoke to the media outside the courthouse.
"There was quite an outburst when the not guilty [verdict] of first-degree murder came out," said Rick Frey, the victim's father. "It was very tense in there …Everybody was holding their breath."
The Freys said they were pleasedthat Pickton was convicted of second-degree murder on all six counts, although they were hoping for a first-degree conviction.
Duringa light snowfall, a brief candlelight vigil was held on the plaza outside the courthouse by family members and friends on Sunday afternoon, shortly after the verdict was read.
They lit a candle for each of the women who died and listened to a song and apoem that described the women and the impact they had on others.
At first, those who attended the vigilwere silent, listening to the tribute. Then, emotion took over. Some people broke down and sobbed while others stood silently, with tears streaming down their faces. Many have mixed emotions about the verdict.
Cynthia Cardinal, sister ofGeorgina Papin, one of the six women, saidshe feels "uplifted."
"A lot of weight has been lifted off. For sure I'm grateful for what happened in the courtroom," she told CBC News.
However, she added that she wasn't entirely happy with the verdict. "It's not what we wanted… they [the jury] did the best they could."
KarinJoesbury, whose daughter Andrea was one of the six victims, saidshe's overwhelmed and the guilty verdict doesn't wash away the pain her family has been suffering.
"It doesn't bring my daughter back — or anyof the other girls," she said. "And there's gonna be another Pickton out there."
"Hopefully, the government will stand up and put some money to where it should be put so these women don't have to go to the streets," Joesbury said.
'Feelings of disappointment'
Elaine Allan, who used to work in a drop-in centre in the Downtown Eastside at night and knew five of the six victims, was in the B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster when the verdict came down.
"It's been extremely emotional. It's very solemn," she told CBC News outside the courthouse. "There's feelings of disappointment. There's feelings of elation in some cases that all six charges did receive a life sentence although … only second-degree."
The verdicts mean Pickton will still face a life sentence, but he could be eligible for parole in 10 years rather than the automatic 25 years called for in a first-degree conviction.
Allan said a lot of people in the Downtown Eastside were frustrated when they thought there was a serial killer preying on sex-trade workers, but felt the justice system didn't respond to their concerns quickly enough.
"I think there's still a real sense that there's a two-tier justice system in the country where these missing women should have been reported and should have been responded to much sooner than [what] happened."
Before the verdict came down, an aboriginal smudge ceremony — in honour of some of the victims' First Nations' heritage — was held outside the courtroom.
"I wanted the family to have prayers … I wanted them to feel a little of closure for what was happening. Things were getting tense here because there's a lot of emotions running high," Gladys Radek, who organized the ceremony, told CBC News.
Judge James Williams has decided victim impact statements will be heard on Tuesday.