B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge has dismissed an application by Cody Rae Haevischer and Matthew James Johnston, who were convicted in the Surrey Six murders, to have their charges stayed “for abuse of process arising from both systemic police misconduct during the investigation, and inhumane conditions of confinement while on remand.”
The judge agreed that that the “misconduct involving the four officers was sufficiently egregious that each now faces multiple criminal charges, including for obstruction of justice, breach of trust and fraud,” and that their “conditions of confinement for their first 14 months in remand were harsh in the extreme.”
However, the judge said that they have been “found guilty of horrific crimes” and “the seriousness of the offences is of the highest order: six counts of first degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder.”
Innocent victims Chris Mohan, 22, a South Asian, and Edward J. Schellenberg, 55, of Abbotsford and four other victims who police say led criminal lifestyles – brothers Corey Jason Michael Lal, 21, and Michael Justin Lal, 26, and Edward (Eddie) Sousakhone Narong, 22, and Ryan Bartolomeo, 19 – were executed in typical gang-style fashion at Apartment 1505 of the Balmoral Towers at 9830 East Whalley Ring Road in Surrey on October 19, 2007.
The judge said: “The circumstances of the offences could not be more shocking. The murders were execution-style killings, carried out with deliberation while the six victims were defenceless. The murder of Corey Lal was driven by the motive of a gang to demonstrate its strength, instill fear in rival gangs, and expand its drug business. The applicants executed the other five victims to avoid detection as the perpetrators of Mr. Lal’s murder.
“In light of the number of victims and the motivation underlying the murders, 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. Moreover, the Applicants chose to go to the Balmoral Tower, an apartment building which is home to hundreds of residents, and to settle their score with Mr. Lal on the doorstep of those residents. They were apparently undeterred by the prospect of imperilling anyone caught in the cross-fire. The result was the murder of six persons.
“The surviving victims of these crimes are the families of the six men who were executed, and their interest in seeing convictions entered for these crimes is equally profound.”
The judge said: “In the circumstances of this case, the seriousness of the charges and society’s interests in seeing justice done are the factors that weigh most heavily in the balance. I am satisfied that the price of staying these convictions could not be worth the gain to our justice system. When the impugned state misconduct is weighed against society’s interest in entering the convictions in this case, this is not one of the “clearest of cases” where the exceptional remedy of a stay of proceedings would be warranted.”
Haevischer and Johnston will be sentenced on December 12.