Lead prosecutor in Pickton murder trial dies of complications from COVID-19


The man who led the prosecution of Canada’s most notorious serial killer is remembered as a friend, mentor, and one of the province’s most keen lawyers.
Mike Petrie died Jan. 5 of pneumonia linked to COVID-19, weeks before his 67th birthday.

Days later, his family said they received a letter from his nursing home telling them he was on the waiting list for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Petrie has fought many legal battles over his 34-year career, but none has been more significant than the trial that led to the 2007 conviction of Robert “Willy” Pickton on six counts of murder in the United States. second degree murder of women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

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“He was the greatest mass murderer in Canadian history, so you can imagine the pressure on Mike and the Crown team when they put this case together, and ultimately, of course, it resulted in convictions, ”said Wally Oppal, who was a lawyer. General at the time.

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Petrie studied law at the University of British Columbia and enlisted as a Crown Attorney in 1979 in the East Kootenay District.

In 1988 he was transferred to the Fraser area, where he focused on major criminal prosecutions, and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2006.

Colleagues remember Petrie as a “human person,” one who always had time for victims, families and other members of the legal community.

His communication skills allowed him to explain complex legal concepts to juries in plain language, while making him a feared cross-examiner.

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“He could get people to say things that no one else could just do,” said Andrew MacDonald, Regional Crown Attorney for the Fraser region.

“I equate that to being able to grab someone’s pocket while the victim is watching you do it, and Mike has done that time and time again.”

Crown Attorney Wendy Stephen described Petrie as brilliant, tough, fair and a mentor to many up-and-coming lawyers.

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“He could also talk to anyone about anything, anytime, and especially communicating with juries,” she says.

“He was a man of the people. He was speaking to the jury as if he were talking to a neighbor over the back fence.

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Stephen said there is no doubt that the high-profile and, at times, gruesome trial took a toll on Petrie.

But she said her sense of positivity and optimism has enabled her to find good in the ordeal, seeing herself as someone who can help victims and families through their darkest times. life.

MacDonald remembers seeing Petrie after winning a pivotal admissibility hearing in the case.

“The look of relief on Mike’s face was palpable,” he said.

“The stress I saw leave his face that day, of the successful bid, was just one of the many journeys he went through in this case. And he suffered greatly from it.

Pickton was ultimately sentenced to six concurrent life sentences in the murders, with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

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MacDonald said victory hinged not only on Petrie’s legal abilities, but also his skills as a leader who assembled an effective team that he admired.

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Years later, Macdonald said, Oppal referred to Petrie as “one of my guys,” a simple recognition that brought great pride to the often-telling prosecutor.

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Despite the emotional toll of the trial, MacDonald said, “If he had been asked to do it again, the answer clearly would have been yes.”

Petrie is also remembered for his love of music.

A seasoned guitar player, he would regal his colleagues with a detailed knowledge of obscure musicians and their place in musical history, MacDonald said.

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The two shared many nights in each other’s homes singing and playing, he said.

Petrie leaves behind a legacy of the successful prosecution of one of Canada’s most infamous criminals and of influencing a generation of young colleagues.

He also leaves behind two families, one of blood – including five children – and one of the law.

His family say no official service is currently scheduled.

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