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Testimony of former Red Scorpions gang leader unreliable, lawyer says

The second of six bodies is removed from the apartment tower where six men were found dead on Oct. 20, 2007, in a Surrey, B.C., high-rise.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

The founder of a notorious British Columbia criminal gang testifying against his alleged former associates in connection with the executions of six people has given testimony that should be found neither reliable nor credible, a lawyer for one of the accused told a judge on Friday.

Lawyer Simon Buck said he intends to argue that evidence given by former Red Scorpions boss Michael Le should be discredited, because Mr. Le was already informed about case many detailsof the case.

"Our position is that Mr. Le's statements and testimony has been tainted by the disclosure that he has reviewed," Mr. Buck told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge after asking the 29-year-old witness to step out of the courtroom.

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The court heard that Mr. Le was given access to a slew of disclosure information last year, when he was on trial alongside Matthew Johnston and Cody Haevischer, co-accused of first-degree murder in the so-called Surrey Six slayings. Mr. Johnston and Mr. Haevischer have pleaded not guilty and remain on trial.

In late November, Mr. Le switched his plea and admitted guilt to a lesser charge in a deal with the Crown. He agreed to co-operate as a crucial prosecution witness and testify against the others.

Mr. Buck is the first defence lawyer to question Mr. Le under cross-examination since the man gave two days of direct evidence earlier this month.

On Friday, Mr. Buck presented Mr. Le with a range of documents, from previous witness statements to the Crown's theory of the murders, and asked Mr. Le whether he recalled reading the material.

Under Canadian law, the accused has the right to the disclosure of all relevant information from the Crown, while witnesses are usually excluded from hearing evidence until after they testify.

"You prided yourself on knowing all the disclosure in this case, right?" Mr. Buck asked after Mr. Le returned to the stand.

Mr. Buck said Mr. Le had previously told his own client, Mr. Haevischer, that he spent all the time in his cell reading files for the case.

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"My life was on the line, Mr. Buck. If you're being charged with murder, your job and obligation is to review the disclosure and help your lawyer to prepare defence for you," he said.

"Any reasonable man would do that."

Mr. Johnston and Mr. Haevischer are each charged with conspiracy and six counts of first-degree murder in the drug-related plot linked to shooting deaths in a Surrey, B.C., highrise in October, 2007.

Mr. Le was arrested the next year in a police drug sting, but fled to Vietnam when he was released without charge. In 2009, police tracked him down in the Philippines and extradited him to Canada, where he's been in custody ever since.

After changing his plea last fall, Mr. Le admitted orchestrating a hit on a rival drug trafficker, named Corey Lal, but did not physically carry out the deed. The Crown has alleged two other gang members – one who has already pleaded guilty – shot Mr. Lal and five other people to leave no witnesses.

Killed were Mr. Lal and his brother Michael, Edward Narong, Ryan Bartolomeo and two bystanders, 55-year-old fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg and 22-year-old building resident Chris Mohan.

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Court heard on Friday that Mr. Le was given a laptop and hard drive to access the disclosure documents while awaiting trial. He said he spent a good deal of time reading documents he felt pertained to him in the early days of his custody, but that waned.

He said he made notes and discussed certain elements with his lawyers. He also agreed with Mr. Buck that he paid attention during pretrial deliberations and during the 32 days he attended trial as one of the accused.

The exchange between the pair was at times strained; Mr. Buck raised his voice while Mr. Le's tone stayed calm and steady even under intense examination.

Mr. Le asked Mr. Buck to clarify or repeat his question as a response to almost every assertion put to him.

At one point, Mr. Buck noted he had already asked his question four or five times.

Mr. Le has also agreed to testify against former Red Scorpions leader Jamie Bacon in a separate trial.

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