An Alberta judge has decided to allow a camera inside an Edmonton courtroom later this week when Travis Vader learns his fate in his double first-degree murder trial.
Justice Denny Thomas made the decision Tuesday afternoon.
Media lawyer Matt Woodley said he’s very pleased with the decision.
“From my perspective, it’s a big deal. This is going to be the first time that we’ve done this in the Court of Queen’s bench in Alberta. It’s in a very important criminal case that deals with many, many important public interest issues,” he said.
“I think that’s a very important decision, not only for this case, but to give instruction to other judges in similar cases in the future.”
Watch below: Later this week a camera will be allowed into an Edmonton courtroom as Travis Vader learns his fate in his double first-degree murder trial. Edmonton media lawyer Matt Woodley speaks about the decision and what it means.
Thursday will be the first time a camera will be allowed in a criminal trial courtroom in Alberta. There are only two other times a camera has been allowed in an Alberta court, both for inquiries which cannot lay blame.
“It will be a first,” Woodley said. “This is something they would not have seen before from our court system.”
The camera will be set up behind the counsel, pointed at the judge. Woodley said the camera may zoom in and out but it will not show wide views of the courtroom or Vader.
“They’ll see the opening of the court, the judge coming in, sitting down and then delivering his decision. They will be living it moment by moment with the people in the courtroom with the judge as he articulates his reasons for making these very important findings for the accused and also for the victims’ family.”
Balfour Der, a criminal lawyer and former prosecutor, said a camera allows access to justice.
“Over 36 years I’ve never really seen a good reason why there shouldn’t be cameras in a courtroom,” Der said.
“I don’t know what we’re afraid of. If we’re saying it in public anyway, in a courtroom, anyone could walk off the street and come in and listen. So why not let people listen from their home, their television wherever they are.”
The decision came after a group of media outlets came together to make its case to have cameras in the courtroom for Thursday’s decision.
The media consortium, made up of Global News, the Edmonton Journal, The Canadian Press, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and CTV, argued the public has a right to witness first-hand whether the Alberta man is found guilty or acquitted in the killing of St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann.
When the case was made last week, Vader’s lawyer supported the idea of cameras in the courtroom, suggesting it would allow the public to better understand how the justice system works.
The Crown said it had concerns a summarized verdict with a camera in the courtroom would mislead the public.
Bret McCann, the son of Lyle and Marie McCann, said it was an excellent idea.
“I think it’s 2016,” Bret McCann said last week. “I think the notion that, ‘yes the court system is open, one can go to the trial, one can go to the CanLii website to read the judgement,’ but how many people really do that?”
Vader is accused of killing Lyle and Marie McCann in July 2010. The St. Albert couple fuelled up at a superstore gas station on July 3, 2010 before heading to B.C. for a family camping trip. Their burned-out motorhome was discovered two days later near the Minnow Lake campground. Their bodies have never been found.
The green SUV the McCanns were towing behind the motorhome was found on July 16, the same day RCMP named Vader a person of interest.
TIMELINE: The key events in the Travis Vader case
Vader was arrested three days later on outstanding warrants.
Vader has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths.
If convicted, he could face life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Global News will livestream the verdict Thursday, Sept. 15, beginning at 10 a.m. MT. The video will also be streamed live on Facebook.