Legebokoff appeal dismissed

Convicted serial killer Cody Legebokoff's appeal for a new trial has been dismissed.

The B.C. Court of Appeal issued the decision this morning in Vancouver following a hearing in May. All three judges who heard the appeal endorsed the decision.

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In September 2014, Legebokoff was sentenced to life in prison without eligibility to apply for parole for 25 years. Following a 3 1/2-month trial at the Prince George courthouse, a jury found him guilty of the charges in the deaths of Jill Stuchenko, 35, Natasha Montgomery, 24, Cynthia Maas, 35, and Loren Leslie, 15.

During the hearing on the appeal, Legebokoff's lawyer, Eric Gottardi, had argued his client deserved a new trial because the judge made disparaging remarks about defence counsel that were only made public after a sentence was imposed.

Now-retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett had criticized defence counsel Jim Heller's handling of a pre-trial application for a change of venue. Gottardi did not allege any errors with respect to the conduct of the trial and conceded the evidence against Legebokoff was overwhelming. 

In turn, Crown counsel David Layton countered that the judge's criticisms were unfounded.

The Court of Appeal agreed and also found Parrett was under no obligation to immediately disclose his views.

"In light of these facts, I consider that a well-informed reasonable person’s confidence in the administration of justice would not be shaken by the trial judge’s delay in making his views known," Justice David Frankel said in a decision issued on behalf of the panel.

It might not be over yet. Legebokoff still has 60 days to file an application to the Supreme Court of Canada. If that's done, Crown is given an opportunity to make its submissions and then a panel of three SCOC judges decide whether the matter should be taken to a full hearing before the entire court.  

Had one of the judges dissented, Legebokoff would have had an "automatic right of appeal" to the superior court, B.C. criminal justice branch spokesman Daniel McLaughlin said. 

Whether the step will be taken will be decided in the next few days, Gottardi said in an interview.

"We're just kind of working through the judgment this morning and we'll see what the client has to say and see whether he wants to go any further with this," Gottardi said.

He said the only issue on whether the matter goes any further is whether the judgment "sets a bad precedent in terms of being able to keep some pretty strong views to themselves until after a trial is over."

On whether that would be enough to get Legebokoff a new trial, Gottardi said that would hinge on whether the SCOC found there was an appearance of unfairness to the trial.

Doug Leslie, father of Loren Leslie, said he's happy with the B.C. Court of Appeal decision.

"I thought it was a waste of time and money anyway," Leslie said. "And I don't believe he should have the right to a written request [to the SCOC] for anything...and that could be just a token thing because it could get bounced out as well."

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