The judge who convicted two Red Scorpion gangsters in the Surrey Six murders found there was “overwhelming” evidence they participated in B.C.’s worst gangland slayings, the B.C. Court of Appeal heard Monday.
Crown prosecutor Mark Levitz said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge properly convicted Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston of first-degree murder and conspiracy, despite the fact that some of the witnesses were of “unsavoury” character.
Levitz said Wedge found strong corroboration for much of the evidence of two key Crown witnesses who can only be identified as KM and Person Y due to publication bans.
Y was involved in the Red Scorpion gang and admitted to two unrelated murders, but Wedge noted that he “went to the police on his own volition,” Levitz said, adding that Y “then cooperated and told them what he knew and agreed to become a witness.”
Levitz told Appeal Court Justices David Tysoe, Anne MacKenzie and Peter Willcock that the appeal should not succeed because the defence lawyers are simply raising the same issues that were argued and rejected during the 2013-14 trial.
Levitz noted that Monday was the 13th anniversary of the murders. Killed execution-style on Oct. 19, 2007, were Corey Lal, his brother Michael, associates Ryan Bartolomeo and Eddie Narong, as well as bystanders Ed Schellenberg and Christopher Mohan.
“The murder of Corey Lal was a Red Scorpion gang hit. Corey Lal was a rival drug dealer to the (Red Scorpions) gang,” Levitz explained.
Lawyers for Haevischer and Johnston argued last week that the 2014 convictions should be overturned because their clients’ rights were violated by a 40-day secret pretrial hearing and by police misconduct they alleged was more widespread than what was disclosed to them.
They suggested that the evidence of Y and KM should not have been accepted by Wedge because some of their interactions with police were not disclosed before the trial.
But Levitz said Monday that not only was it appropriate for the judge to believe the two witnesses, but there was much more evidence of Haevischer’s and Johnston’s involvement in the murders, including dozens of other Crown witnesses, surveillance video, photos and cellphone records.
He pointed to the testimony of Milad Lari, a friend of Corey Lal, who said their phone call ended abruptly right as the killers arrived at suite 1505 in the Balmoral Tower.
“During this phone call, Mr. Lal said to Lari, ‘Oh f–k,’ and Mr. Lal hung up and he sounded worried,” Levitz said.
He noted the evidence of two women attending a bible study in the building who saw suspicious men both arriving and leaving in the underground parking lot that day. Those same men were captured on surveillance video that day at the apartment building where Haevischer and KM lived at the time.
Levitz also said Wedge properly held an in-camera hearing excluding the defence lawyers in 2013 “because their absence was necessary to protect an informer’s identity.”
He also said a defence argument that a 2019 statement from a former Mountie suggesting possible police misconduct related to KM would not have had any bearing on the outcome on the trial.
“These vague and unreliable allegations could not have any impact on KM’s credibility,” Levitz said, adding that KM denied witnessing any inappropriate police behaviour when she testified.
The appeal hearing is expected to conclude Oct. 23.