Convicted serial killer Cody Legebokoff should get a new trial because the judge failed to disclose he thought Legebokoff’s lawyer behaved unethically and dishonestly, his new lawyer claims.
Legebokoff’s appeal was heard Wednesday at the B.C. Court of Appeal in downtown Vancouver. He was found guilty of murdering four women — Jill Stachenko, Cynthia Maas, Natasha Montgomery and Loren Leslie. Arrested at the age of 19, it makes him Canada’s youngest known serial killer.
Defence lawyer Eric Gottardi told the court that the trial judge questioned the “conduct, ethics and professionalism of defence counsel” during a proceeding before his 2014 trial, but did not reveal that opinion until 18 months later, once the trial was over.
It was about two weeks after Legebokoff was convicted and sentenced to life in prison that the judge noted the questionable conduct in his written reasons.
The timing of the release of the trial judge’s view gives the appearance of an unfair trial, Gottardi told the court.
Had Legebokoff known of the judge’s view, Gottardi said Legebokoff may have elected to hire new counsel, and so it robbed him of a right to counsel of his choice.
“We know bad lawyering exists,” Gottardi argued. “That’s not what I’m talking about here.”
“We’re not alleging an actually unfair trial,” he said, and noted other successful appeals demonstrate it’s not necessary for there to be a finding of “actual prejudice or unfairness to the accused.”
Gottardi said the trial judge is the “guardian of fairness,” but “fell well below this standard.”
There’s no way to fix it, Gottardi said, other than to order a new trial, “so public confidence in the administration of justice can be restored.”
Crown counsel David Layton was scheduled to continue his arguments Wednesday afternoon, focusing on the defence’s claim of unfairness.
The three appeal judges were expected to reserve their judgement until a later date.
In November 2010, an RCMP officer pulled over Legebokoff while he was driving on a logging road late at night near Vanderhoof.
The officer saw blood in his car, which Legebokoff said was because he’d just been hunting.
A conservation officer was contacted to search the area for suspected illegal hunting activity, and found the body of 15-year-old Leslie.
RCMP later linked him to the three additional deaths.
Legebokoff was living in a house in Prince George with high school friends at the time of his arrest.