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Court allows conspiracy charge in B.C.’s Surrey Six murder trial

Investigators stand outside the scene of a multiple homicide in Surrey, B.C., on Oct. 21, 2007.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

A British Colombia judge has rejected an accused gang member's attempt to have a conspiracy charge against him thrown out at a murder trial related to the deaths of six people, including two innocent bystanders.

Cody Haevischer is on trial with Matthew Johnston for the murders of six men who were found shot in a high-rise apartment unit in Surrey, B.C., in October, 2007. Both are charged with conspiracy to commit murder and six counts of first-degree murder.

Mr. Haevischer's lawyer said prosecutors failed to produce any evidence to support the conspiracy charge against his client, regardless of whether the judge eventually believes he took part in the actual murders.

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But B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge rejected the application on Wednesday, ruling the Crown had produced some circumstantial evidence that could support the conspiracy charge.

"Taken as a whole, I conclude that the evidence is reasonably capable of supporting the inference that Mr. Haevischer had knowledge of the conspiracy before the murders occurred," Justice Wedge said as Mr. Haevischer and Mr. Johnston watched by video.

"It may not be the only inference that can be drawn. It may not be a strong inference. But it is reasonably available on the evidence."

The test for allowing the charge to proceed at this stage is the same as at a preliminary inquiry: There must be at least some evidence that, if believed, could reasonably lead to a conviction. It is a far lower standard than for a guilty verdict, which must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Crown's theory is that the leaders of the Red Scorpions gang plotted to kill rival drug trafficker Corey Lal. The Crown alleges Mr. Haevischer, Mr. Johnston and a man known as Person X then carried out the task, killing not just Mr. Lal, but also five others to eliminate potential witnesses.

Evidence presented at the trial has focused on several meetings among Red Scorpions members before the murders in which they discussed the plan to kill Mr. Lal, although no one has suggested Mr. Haevischer was involved in those discussions.

The Crown argues Mr. Haevischer was brought into the conspiracy at the last minute.

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The trial has heard evidence that Mr. Johnston and Person X arrived at Mr. Haevischer's apartment on the afternoon of the murders. Once there, the Crown alleges, Mr. Johnston and Person X cleaned guns and bullets and then all three men went to Mr. Lal's apartment.

The Crown says Mr. Johnston must have told Mr. Haevischer about the plan at some point before the murders, likely as the trio drove to the murder scene wearing hoodies, gloves and carrying two handguns.

Defence lawyers are making several applications before revealing whether they intend to call any evidence of their own.

Gang leader Michael Le pleaded guilty to conspiracy midway through the trial and testified against Mr. Haevischer and Mr. Johnston. Mr. Le was sentenced to 12 years, and will be eligible to apply for parole by the end of the year.

Person X has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Jamie Bacon, the alleged co-leader of the gang, is also charged with conspiracy and one count of first-degree murder. He will be tried separately.

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Another man, Sophon Sek, is awaiting trial for manslaughter.

The victims included Mr. Lal, his brother Michael, Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo.

Also killed were fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg, 55, and building resident Chris Mohan, 22, neither of whom had any connection to gangs or drugs.

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