Lawyers ask for stay or new trial for Travis Vader in deaths of missing seniors

Travis Vader was sentenced in January 2017 to life in prison for the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann

Lawyers for a man convicted of killing two missing Alberta seniors have asked the Alberta Court of Appeal to throw out his manslaughter conviction or order a new trial.

Travis Vader was sentenced in January 2017 to life in prison for the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, who were in their 70s when they vanished after leaving their Edmonton-area home in July 2010.

Defence lawyers asked the Appeal Court on Friday to order a stay of proceedings or a new trial on the grounds that there were a number of errors in the original one.

“The case took way too long. It should have been stayed,” Brian Beresh said outside court. “That, of course, if successful, would mean no trial.

“Alternatively, a trial simply on manslaughter.”

RELATED: Son of Vader’s victims demands action from Ottawa on Criminal Code ‘zombie laws’

The defence argued in court that the RCMP was negligent in the handling of disclosure in the trial, which added two years of delay to the prosecution.

They also noted the judge mistakenly used an outdated section of the Criminal Code and later substituted manslaughter for the original verdict of second-degree murder.

“The extraordinary errors committed by the police and the trial judge in this case deprived the public and the appellant of any hope of a prosecution conducted in accordance with the fundamental rights protected by the charter,” said a written brief filed by the defence.

“This is one of the rare cases where a stay of proceedings is required.”

Crown prosecutor Jason Russell argued there were exceptional circumstances that justified the time it took to complete the trial.

“In assessing the reasonableness of the delay, the court must consider the exceptionally complicated nature of this case,” he said in a written brief.

Vader was charged with first-degree murder in April 2012, almost two years after the McCanns’s burned-out motorhome and a vehicle they had been towing were discovered in the days after they disappeared. Their bodies have never been found.

The charges against Vader were stayed in March 2014 before being reinstated in December 2014.

During the trial in 2016, Vader was described as a desperate drug addict who came across the McCanns and killed them during a robbery.

The Crown had asked for a life sentence. Prosecutors argued Vader showed no remorse after the killings, used the McCanns’s cellphone the same day to call an ex-girlfriend and took their money to buy beer and a phone card.

The defence suggested Vader should receive four to six years, but get at least six years of credit for pre-trial custody.

Vader, who’s in custody, has maintained his innocence.

Should a new trial be ordered, it should only be on Vader’s manslaughter convictions. the defence suggested Friday.

“The law is pretty clear,” explained Beresh. “If you are acquitted of murder, you can’t be retried on that. Your exposure is limited to the conviction, which we say in this case was manslaughter only.”

The Court of Appeal — made up of Justice Peter Martin, Justice Marina Paperny and Justice Jack Watson — challenged the defence on a number of its legal arguments.

Beresh said he expected tough questions from the bench.

“This is a serious issue,” he said. “As everyone knows, this is not the last station on the railway track. This case could go to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

The Court of Appeal reserved its decision.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Pods’ set up at Surrey homeless centre

Temporary shelter set up in April to help stop the spread of COVID-19

Suspect sought in alleged indecent act in South Surrey

Police say incident occurred near 13 Avenue and 131 Street

New video evidence in Surrey man’s West Kelowna murder trial shown in court

The defence closed its case following the playing of the video in court, marking the end of the evidentiary phase of the trial

IHIT investigating ‘suspicious’ death of Surrey man

Officers found a body in the 11300-block of Bridgeview Drive: Surrey RCMP

PHOTOS: White Rock Farmers’ Market ‘welcomes all vendors’

Relaxing pandemic restrictions mean full spectrum of vendors can return to uptown market: manager

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

IHIT names homicide victim found in the Fraser Canyon this week

Police asking for tips into the suspicious death of 29-year-old Alicia Berg

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

Most Read