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Appeals court decision may not be popular, but safeguards people's rights
Many Langley residents are likely outraged that the two murder convictions given to Davey Butorac have now been set aside by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Butorac is an Aldergrove resident who, in 2010, was convicted of the 2007 murders of Sheryl Koroll of Langley and Gwendolyn Lawton on Abbotsford.
He is also facing a murder charge in the 2006 murder of Margaret Redford of Aldergrove. That trial will take place next year.
At this point in time, it is unclear if Butorac will be staying in jail until the trial for the Redford murder begins. The Times is trying to get a clear answer in this.
The reason the two convictions were set aside is that the trial judge agreed to use evidence from one murder case as “similar fact evidence” in the other case. While there are some opportunities to use facts from one case in another one in the justice system, the Court of Appeal noted that “there must be a high degree of similarity.”
While most people will dismiss this as pointless legal wrangling and differing over small matters, such is not the case.
The rules of evidence exist to ensure that people who face charges in a criminal case have every opportunity to receive a fair trial. That’s why evidence gathered by police and prosecutors must be shared with the defendants and their lawyers before a trial begins.
They can then defend themselves against the evidence to be used against them.
In this particular case, Butorac was facing two murder charges that had some similarity. However, at the time of his trial, his lawyer asked that the two cases be considered separately and that “similar fact evidence” not be used.
In other words, evidence for each separate charge needed to be provided in court.
The judge ruled against the lawyer during the trial, a fact noted in the Court of Appeal decision.
Now the three-member appeals court had done what the trial judge did not do, and said evidence in each cases must be independent.
Butorac is not “getting away with murder.” He will be facing new trials for these two murders, and the same evidence that was presented in the earlier trial will be used again. It is unfortunate that all this extra expense is being incurred, but had the trial judge ruled differently, the courts would not be going through this exercise.
In the meantime, he will face a third murder charge in the case of Redford, whose body was found in Bertrand Creek in Aldergrove. That murder shocked the community and caused many people to be fearful. It’s too bad it has taken so long for that case to move ahead.
The Court of Appeal decision, while disappointing in that it ends up costing taxpayers a lot of extra money, is a victory for ordinary citizens. It confirms that anyone who is on trial must be treated in a fair manner and have every opportunity to clear his or her name. The court is safeguarding the freedom we take for granted.