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Lawyers ask for new trial for Travis Vader in deaths of missing Alberta couple

Lawyers ask for new trial for Travis Vader
WATCH ABOVE: Defence lawyers are asking for a new trial for Travis Vader in the deaths of a missing Alberta couple. Julia Wong reports.

Lawyers for a man convicted of killing two missing Alberta seniors have asked the Alberta Court of Appeal to throw out the manslaughter conviction or order a new trial.

Travis Vader was sentenced in January 2017 to life in prison for the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, who were in their 70s when they vanished after leaving their Edmonton-area home in July 2010.

READ MORE: Travis Vader to appeal manslaughter conviction in the fall

Defence lawyers asked the Appeal Court Friday to order a stay of proceedings or a new trial on the grounds that there were a number of errors in the original one.

“The case took way too long. It should have been stayed,” Brian Beresh said outside court. “That, of course, if successful, would mean no trial.

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“Alternatively, a trial simply on manslaughter.”

The defence argued in court that the RCMP was negligent in the handing of disclosure in the trial, adding two years of delay to the prosecution.

READ MORE: Travis Vader: legal expert says error leaves verdict open to appeal

They also noted the judge mistakenly used an outdated section of the Criminal Code and later substituted manslaughter for the original verdict of second-degree murder.

“The extraordinary errors committed by the police and the trial judge in this case deprived the public and the appellant of any hope of a prosecution conducted in accordance with the fundamental rights protected by the charter,” said a written brief filed by the defence.

“This is one of the rare cases where a stay of proceedings is required.”

READ MORE: Travis Vader verdict: what is Section 230 of the Criminal Code?

Crown prosecutor Jason Russell argued there were exceptional circumstances that justify the time it took to complete the case.

“In assessing the reasonableness of the delay, the court must consider the exceptionally complicated nature of this case and limited court resources,” he said in a written brief.

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Vader was charged with first-degree murder in April 2012, almost two years after the McCanns’s burned-out motorhome and a vehicle they had been towing were discovered in the days after they disappeared. Their bodies have never been found.

The charges against Vader were stayed in March 2014 before being reinstated in December 2014.

During the trial in 2016, Vader was described as a desperate drug addict who came across the McCanns and killed them during a robbery.

The Crown had asked for a life sentence. Prosecutors argued Vader showed no remorse after the killings, used the McCanns’s cellphone the same day to call an ex-girlfriend and took their money to buy beer and a phone card.

The defence suggested Vader should receive four to six years, but get at least six years of credit for pre-trial custody.

Vader, who’s in custody, has maintained his innocence.

Watch below: Ongoing Global News coverage of the Travis Vader trial

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Should a new trial be ordered, the defence said in court that it should only be on Vader’s manslaughter convictions.

“The law is pretty clear,” explained Beresh. “If you are acquitted of murder, you can’t be retried on that. Your exposure is limited to the conviction, which we say in this case was manslaughter only.”

READ MORE: Bret McCann calls for changes to Criminal Code following Travis Vader verdict

The Court of Appeal — made up of Justice Peter Martin, Justice Marina Paperny and Justice Jack Watson — challenged the defence on a number of legal arguments.

Beresh said he expected tough questions from the bench.

“This is a serious issue,” he said. “As everyone knows, this is not the last station on the railway track. This case could go to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision.