VANCOUVER — A trial stemming from the murders of six people in British Columbia has fallen apart after a judge stayed charges against a man Friday, referencing misplaced evidence, the testimony of a confidential informer and the fair trial rights of the accused in her decision.
Jamie Bacon was accused of the first-degree murder of 21-year-old Corey Lal, one of six people murdered in a highrise apartment in October 2007 in Surrey, B.C.
The B.C. Supreme Court released its ruling Friday in an application for a stay filed by Bacon's lawyers in the so-called Surrey Six case.
Crown considering an appeal
Much of the evidence and reasons for the decision were sealed by the court.
"In order to protect the Crown's claims of privilege, which I have upheld, the evidence adduced, the materials filed and my reasons for entering the stay of proceedings must remain sealed," wrote Justice Kathleen Ker.
The Crown said it is considering an appeal.Bacon remains in custody on a separate charge of counselling the murder of an individual, the Crown says. His trial is scheduled to begin on April 3, 2018. The Crown says he has not applied for bail on that charge, but it would oppose his release.
None of the allegations in that case have been tested in court.
Lawyers had privileged info
The abbreviated ruling released by the judge in the Surrey Six case says Bacon's lawyers had come into possession of privileged information that they were not allowed to use in his defence, which would impact his right to a fair trial.
"In part, this arose from the manner in which the police handled aspects of privileged and confidential information," the ruling says.
The RCMP said in a statement it is reviewing the ruling to assess any impacts on the force.
The judge also determined that someone who can only be referred to as Person X because of a publication ban cannot be called by the Crown as a witness in order to protect Bacon's rights.
The public, however, should have confidence that these issues were explored in great detail, and that the Crown worked diligently with the investigators to bring the issues before the court and argue them fully.Dan McLaughlin, B.C. Prosecution Service
Person X pleaded guilty in April 2009 to three counts of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the case.
In 2014, Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnson were convicted of six counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. They were each given life sentences.
Previous trials have heard Bacon was a leader of the Red Scorpion gang.
Dan McLaughlin, B.C. Prosecution Service spokesman, said the court has strictly limited what he can say to the public.
"The public, however, should have confidence that these issues were explored in great detail, and that the Crown worked diligently with the investigators to bring the issues before the court and argue them fully."
Justice did not happen for him. How do I accept something like this? Everything inside me wants to scream.Eileen Mohan, victim's mother
He said the Crown met with victims' families and explained the decision to the extent it was able.
Eileen Mohan, whose 22-year-old son Christopher Mohan was among two bystanders who were killed, said she walked out of a meeting with the Crown on Friday once she learned the charges had been stayed.
"Today, I am broken," she said. "Ever since I buried my son, my life stopped, and I stopped my life to ensure that he got justice because he lost his voice.
"Justice did not happen for him. How do I accept something like this? Everything inside me wants to scream."
A stay is a direction of the court that charges not be acted on at least until some other step is taken.
Trial delayed several times
The stayed charges stem from a massacre in a 15th-storey apartment in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver.
The men who were killed were identified as Lal's brother Michael, 26; Ryan Bartolomeo, 19; Eddie Narong, 22; Ed Schellenberg, 55; and Mohan.
Previous trials heard that Mohan, who lived in the apartment next door, and Schellenberg, a fireplace repairman, were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bacon was 23 when he was charged in 2009. Bacon's trial had been delayed several times and court proceedings took place behind closed doors in Vancouver.
The Crown's theory in previous trials was that the gang's bosses ordered the men to murder Lal, a rival drug trafficker, and the other five were killed to eliminate witnesses.
Another man pleaded guilty to break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offence for his part in the slayings.
Attorney General David Eby said he was "shocked" when he learned of the stay.
"I write these words today with tremendous disappointment," he read from a statement before declining to take questions.
"The families of the victims and all who have been impacted by this terrible crime deserve peace, and they will not find it today."
With files from Terri Theodore and Gemma Karstens-Smith.
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