An Edmonton judge denied a mistrial application Monday in the Travis Vader double-murder case, and instead convicted him of manslaughter in the deaths of an elderly St. Albert couple.
During the application for the mistrial Monday morning, Justice Denny Thomas said he “accepted” that his conviction of Vader for double murder based on section 230 of the Criminal Code was an error.
In September, Thomas said in his verdict that Vader was a desperate drug addict who came across Lyle and Marie McCann in their motorhome and shot them during a robbery in 2010.
But in finding Vader guilty, the judge used Section 230 of the Criminal Code, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 1990. The government didn’t remove the section from the books, as antiquated laws are rarely repealed.
Section 230 allowed for a second-degree murder verdict if a killing occurred during the commission of another crime, such as robbery. Otherwise, there must be intent to cause death or bodily harm that one knows is likely to cause death.
During Monday’s application for a mistrial, Vader’s defence team told court a mistrial was the only option because “there just isn’t some other remedy that can fix this problem.”
The Crown argued a mistrial should only be declared in the “clearest of cases and…this isn’t one of those cases.” The Crown said a correction to a manslaughter conviction is possible.
Lyle and Marie McCann disappeared in 2010 while on a road trip. The elderly couple’s burned out motorhome was discovered a few days later near Edson, Alta., but their bodies have not been found.
Last week, Thomas said cameras would not be allowed in the courtroom for the mistrial hearing because he might not render a ruling on the application. He said the hearing would mainly consist of oral arguments rather than a scripted summary like he delivered the last time a camera was allowed inside.
Cameras were in the Edmonton courtroom when the judge convicted Vader in September.
Last week, the Alberta Crown said it was opposed to the idea of a camera in the courtroom during the mistrial decision.
A media consortium, which includes Global News, applied earlier this month to have the camera present.
The sentencing hearing for Vader’s manslaughter conviction has been scheduled for the week of Dec. 12. The defence said it anticipates calling a “substantial amoung of evidence.”
The Crown said it will be asking for a sentencing “at or near the upper end of the range.”
– Story by Slav Kornik and Karen Bartko of Global News.