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Conviction in Surrey Six case impossible based on evidence, defence lawyer says

RCMP officers, police from local detachments and Surrey city workers comb the brush along a roadway in the Green Timbers Urban Forest on Oct. 23, 2007, as they search for evidence near a building where six men were found dead in Surrey, B.C.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

The Crown's case at a trial into a gang shooting near Vancouver that left six people dead is "woefully inadequate," based on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of nefarious witnesses, a defence lawyer said Monday.

Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston are each charged with conspiracy and six counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of six men, including two innocent bystanders, in a high-rise condo in Surrey, B.C., in October 2007.

Haevischer's lawyer, Simon Buck, began his final submissions Monday, telling a B.C. Supreme Court judge that after dozens of witnesses and hundreds of exhibits, there isn't enough evidence to convict his client.

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"We will demonstrate that the Crown's evidence in this case is woefully inadequate to prove any offence against Mr. Haevischer," said Buck.

"The Crown has focused on the amount of evidence, not the quality of the evidence."

The prosecution has always acknowledged it was advancing a circumstantial case that relied heavily on the testimony of ex-gang members, including a former gang leader, Haevischer's former girlfriend and a convicted killer.

The judge will need to determine if those witnesses should be believed and whether the evidence is so strong that there is no explanation other than Haevischer and Johnston are guilty.

The Crown's theory is that the leaders of the Red Scorpions gang plotted to kill a rival drug trafficker named Corey Lal. The Crown alleges Haevischer, Johnston and a third man known only as Person X went to execute Lal, but also killed five others who were potential witnesses.

The founder of the Red Scorpions, Michael Le, was charged with conspiracy and one count of first-degree murder, but he pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge midway through the trial after reaching a plea deal with the Crown.

Le testified about the murder plot, which he said was driven by his co-leader, Jamie Bacon. He also said Haevischer and Johnston each admitted their involvement on separate occasions.

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Buck cast Le as an unco-operative witness whose testimony was replete with inconsistencies, especially when compared with what he told police when preparing for his plea deal last fall.

Earlier in the trial, Buck suggested Le had attempted to minimize his role in the plot and tailored his testimony to evidence he had already seen, either during the trial or through Crown disclosure.

Haevischer's former girlfriend, who can be identified only as K.M., testified about her and Haevischer's life in the Red Scorpions and what happened before and after the killings.

She told the trial Johnston and Person X arrived at their apartment on the afternoon of the killings, carrying two handguns that needed to be cleaned. They returned an hour later, setting off a "tense" day in which she helped burn a laundry bag of evidence and saw Haevischer write the phrase "people died" on a dry-erase board.

"(K.M.) was a criminal," said Buck, who described the woman as "cavalier and sarcastic."

"(K.M.) repeatedly lied to the police. ... (K.M.) was self motivated. She had no respect for the justice system."

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Another witness, who can only be referred to as Person Y, told the trial he was part of the conspiracy and had initially agreed to carry out the execution before backing out at the last minute.

Person Y said Johnston admitted his involvement shortly after the murders took place. The court heard Person Y later became a police agent and recorded conversations with Johnston.

"(Person Y) was presented as a person who was a dangerous criminal and was well-acquainted with the gang life," said Buck.

Among the victims were fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg, 55, and building resident Chris Mohan, 22, who were not connected to gangs or drugs.

The other victims were Corey Lal, his brother Michael, Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo, all of whom had links to gangs and drugs.

Jamie Bacon, the alleged co-leader of the Red Scorpions, is charged with conspiracy and one count of first-degree murder and is expected to stand trial later.

Person X pleaded guilty in 2009 to three counts of second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

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