The multiple murder convictions of Surrey Six killers Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston will stand now that their attempt to have the charges thrown out has been rejected by a B.C. Supreme Court judge, who called their crimes “horrific.”
Red Scorpion gangsters Haevischer and Johnston were found guilty on Oct. 2 of six counts each of first-degree murder and one of conspiracy to murder, but the verdicts had not been entered as they both sought a judicial stay of proceedings alleging abuse of process stemming from police misconduct during the Surrey Six investigation, as well as inhumane conditions the pair faced while in custody.
The Crown wanted the application dismissed without a hearing, arguing the allegations did not warrant throwing out six first-degree murder charges.
In her ruling Wednesday morning in Vancouver, Justice Catherine Wedge agreed there was misconduct, but said staying the murder charges “would be a disproportionate response” to the serious crimes committed by Haevischer and Johnston.
“In light of the number of victims and the motivation underlying the murders,” Wedge said in her 42-page written ruling, “society’s interest in seeing justice done on the merits of this case is profound. Society’s interest weighs all the more heavily in the context of this case because the carnage was the result of gang members fighting for turf in the illicit drug trade.
“I am satisfied that the price of staying these convictions could not be worth the gain to our justice system,” said Wedge.
In seeking the stay of proceedings, defence lawyers pointed to the Surrey Six investigation, during which several RCMP officers allegedly had sex with potential witnesses. Four officers are now facing criminal charges in connection with the allegations.
Wedge agreed the police misconduct was “serious, prolonged and systemic.” But it is not ongoing, she added, and was “promptly and severely dealt with.”
Haevischer and Johnston also alleged that following their arrests for the murders, they were were placed in solitary confinement for a prolonged period. Indeed, Wedge agreed, their conditions for their first 14 months in jail were “harsh in the extreme,” but she said once the conditions were recognized, the two were immediately moved into the general population in prison.
Haevischer and Johnston were found guilty in the Oct. 19, 2007 execution-style murders of rival drug dealer Corey Lal, his brother Michael, Ryan Bartolomeo, Eddie Narong, as well as Edward Schellenberg, who was servicing fireplaces in the Balmoral Tower apartment building that day, and Christopher Mohan, who lived next door to the death suite and was dragged from the hallway as he headed out to play basketball.
Christopher’s mom Eileen Mohan (left) was in court Wednesday and said she never believed the judge would stay the charges against Haevisher and Johnston. As bad as the police misconduct may have been, she said, they did not go to someone’s doorstep and take innocent lives.
“My son’s life is way more precious than the mistreatment of these two criminals in prison,” Mohan said. “At some point, we have to come to a conclusion that if you are a criminal … your rights do not supersede our rights.”
Having Haevischer and Johnston’s guilty verdicts officially entered was meaningful for Mohan, who sat through months of often gruesome testimony since the trial began last fall.
“These two criminals had a hand in grabbing my son and mishandling him and in the end, taking his precious life, so this is very important to me,” she said, adding she will speak at the pair’s sentencing hearing.
She said she will now prepare for the trial of Jamie Bacon, who is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder Corey Lal in connection with the Surrey Six murders. That trial is scheduled for May.
Sophon Sek, is also charged with manslaughter in the case, but a trial date hasn’t been set.
Another man, who can only be identified as Person X, pleaded guilty in 2009 to three counts of second-degree murder in relation to the slaughter and is serving a life sentence with no parole for 15 years.
Michael Le was initially on trial alongside Haevischer and Johnston, but a year ago, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder Corey Lal and ended up testifying against his former Red Scorpion gang associates.
Johnston and Haevischer will be sentenced Dec. 12. First-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.