Travis Vader will go to trial on first-degree murder charges in March after his application for a judicial stay was rejected in an Edmonton courtroom Tuesday.
Justice Denny Thomas said Vader, who is accused of killing St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann in July 2010, did not prove an abuse of process took place, and neither did he show his charter rights were breached by an unreasonable delay.
“Mr. Vader has come close, very close, but I have decided unreasonable delay has not been shown,” he said.
The trial by judge alone, scheduled to last five weeks, will begin March 8 in Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton. Vader is currently free on bail.
When Thomas gave his decision, there were audible sobs of relief coming from the McCann family. Bret McCann told reporters afterwards that the decision comes as an immense relief.
“We’re very pleased that this whole process is proceeding and we are keenly looking forward to finding out what happened to my parents,” he said. “Today is just a really significant milestone for us, and we’re glad it went the way it did.”
McCann said he and his family planned to attend for the duration.
In a 27-page written decision, Thomas outlined factors relevant to several competition interests with respect to this application: the rights of the accused to a fair trial, the public confidence in the justice system, and Vader’s right to potentially have his name cleared after four years of news stories about him.
He found that ultimately, prosecutor Michelle Doyle’s decision to stay the proceedings was one that respected Vader’s charter rights, rather than breached them, and that a trial on the merits of the case must go ahead.
“Looking at all of these factors, I conclude that the public’s confidence in the administration of justice requires Mr. Vader be tried for the charges that he murdered Lyle and Marie McCann,” he wrote. “Mr. Vader’s long and interrupted march to the courtroom is troubling, however, given the seriousness of the charges, and the shared interests of Mr. Vader and the public in his very public name being cleared align to favour a full adjudication of the charges against him.”
With the abuse of process application, Vader’s defence team argued the Crown’s decision to stay the charges in 2014 was a deliberate effort to circumvent court process and buy more time for the RCMP to investigate.
It’s a position defence lawyer Brian Beresh said he still maintains.
“It was effective because it bought more time, and it was ineffective because nothing new was revealed, so we look forward to a trial and Mr. Vader does too,” he said.
He said he would argue that evidence collected after the stay of proceedings was entered should not be admissible during the trial. It is expected there will be one more voir dire hearing, which is essentially a trial within a trial to rule whether a given piece of evidence can be admitted.
Crown prosecutor Ashley Finlayson, one of three prosecutors now involved in the case, said Tuesday’s decision was a positive step, and emphasized nobody involved was advocating for a lengthy delay.
“There were special circumstances in this case,” he said. “Those circumstances, and the reasoning for the decision are explained in the decision.”