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Winnipeg trial of man accused of killing four women starts with bid to toss jury


Lawyers for a Winnipeg man accused of killing four women are renewing calls for a judge to decide the case rather than a jury.

They say two years of publicity surrounding the high-profile case of Jeremy Skibicki may sway the jury panel that was picked last week.

Skibicki has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders have named Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe or Buffalo Woman.

Skibicki, dressed in a T-shirt, baggy pants and leg shackles, sat in court Monday as his lawyers argued the six-week-long trial should be heard in front of a judge alone.

It was the second time in six months they made the argument that Skibicki should have the right to elect the mode of trial that he wants.

Court of King's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal, who is also overseeing the trial, dismissed the initial motion.

Skibicki's lawyers are now using the results of a poll conducted by Mainstreet Research in its renewed call for no jury.

The poll was commissioned by Legal Aid Manitoba, whose lawyers represent Skibicki, and was completed over a four-day period in February.

The head of the firm, Quito Maggi, testified the poll was to gauge people's perceptions around Skibicki and the case.

"Polls are a snapshot in time ... it's to forecast potential outcomes," Maggi told court.

The questions and results of the poll have not been released, but court heard some of the questions related to respondents' understanding of "problematic DNA evidence," whether race or gender played a role in the four women's deaths, and whether respondents have a positive or negative opinion of the accused.

Participants were contacted by phone or asked to fill out a survey accessed through a link that was texted to them.

He told court callers read from a script and were not allowed to go outside of it to provide more context.

Maggi said 906 people completed the survey and there were no reports detailing any significant problems with survey.

The Crown took issue with the content around some of the questions, including one about whether it would be acceptable for Skibicki to be found not guilty because of a mental disorder.

Crown prosecutor Renee Lagimodiere also told court some of the questions were unclear or vague.

The defence is expected to continue making arguments Tuesday.

Jurors are expected to come to court on May 8, when opening arguments are slated to start.

The case dates back to the spring of 2022, when the partial remains of Contois were found in a garbage bin and at a city-run landfill.

Police have said they believe the remains of Harris and Myran are at a different, privately owned landfill, Prairie Green, outside the city. The location of Buffalo Woman's remains are unknown.

The Prairie Green search has been at the centre of controversy.

Countrywide protests were held after police said they would not search the landfill for Harris and Myran, but last month the federal and Manitoba governments committed $40 million for a search.

The preliminary matter is expected to continue into Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 29, 2024. Top Stories

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