Opinion poll on alleged Winnipeg serial killer may hint at defence method: law firm

A poll that seeks public opinion about a Winnipeg guy accused of killing 4 Indigenous women of all ages has lifted inquiries about why it’s remaining conducted and irrespective of whether the findings will be valuable.

The on-line survey, which is being conducted by means of text messages and cellphone calls by the nationwide polling firm Mainstreet Investigate, seeks public attitudes toward Jeremy Skibicki, 36, who is scheduled to face a jury trial this spring following pleading not responsible to 4 counts of first-diploma murder in November.

Skibicki is charged in the 2022 deaths of a few First Nations gals — Marcedes Myran, 26, Morgan Harris, 39, and Rebecca Contois, 24 — and a fourth, unknown girl, who has been offered the title Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman, by the Indigenous community.

Respondents to the on the internet study are initially questioned if they are Manitoba inhabitants, at minimum 18 years outdated, and if they work in the justice procedure, in advance of becoming questioned thoughts these as whether they figure out Skibicki’s name and if they’ve formed an opinion about his guilt.

Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Investigation, verified to CBC News on Tuesday that the poll was commissioned by Lawful Aid Manitoba, which is where by Skibicki’s lawyers do the job.

Maggi would not share how a great deal Legal Support Manitoba paid for the poll or no matter whether the last final results would be designed public, but claimed Mainstreet has done very similar polls far more than when in the earlier.

Nearly 90 for every cent of Lawful Aid Manitoba’s 2023 functioning funding arrived from the province.

The primary hyperlink to the survey appeared to be no for a longer period active on Wednesday, but Mainstreet verified that the study continues to be active at one more link.

Survey’s efficacy questioned

The survey presents three felony defences: not criminally dependable due to a psychological dysfunction, problematic DNA evidence, and self-defence. It asks respondents about their typical check out of every defence and how satisfactory they would come across a not-responsible verdict for Skibicki based mostly on them.

Anthony Robinson, a Vancouver-centered legal defence lawyer who is not linked to the Skibicki circumstance, says those inquiries could advise the defence’s route forward, just after Skibicki was denied a decide-on your own trial in late January.

“Are they feeling out the waters with respect to a substantive defence? Or are they striving to renew their software to re-elect the judge-by yourself [trial] because they experience that Mr. Skibicki would not get a reasonable trial in the presence of a jury?” Robinson explained in a Tuesday interview.

“I don’t think the defence is obligated to tell anybody.”

A screenshot from an online survey is pictured.
The on the net study asks respondents for their opinions on 3 criminal defences: not criminally responsible because of to a mental dysfunction, problematic DNA evidence, and self-defence. (CBC)

Peter Kingsley, Authorized Help Manitoba’s executive director, stated in an emailed statement to CBC Information on Wednesday that Legal Assist “can not go over person matters about which we may well or could not have involvement.”

Nevertheless, he claimed that normally talking, legal professionals are “generally required to existing professional studies or factual foundations for motions or arguments,” which “in some conditions … is completed with market investigation” — a observe he reported is not typical, but “not strange.”

A selection on regardless of whether to pursue a specific defence or pro is generally “based on a straightforward economic take a look at — will the probably final result justify the charge,” mentioned Kingsley.

For Authorized Aid Manitoba, “in each and every single ask for for disbursements, whether or not it is for an expert, a study, or a personal investigator, counsel must give an clarification placing out the lawful foundation for the ask for, the anticipated end result and why it is crucial to their defence,” he explained.

Making sure its customers get “the fullest defence readily available” needs a very careful balance in considering achievable defences, he reported, meaning the program at times has to make difficult and unpopular decisions to be certain sources are not squandered.

“The very last issue we desire to see is a scenario where a individual was wrongfully convicted because a valid defence was not thought of simply just owing to charge or a perceived public pressure,” wrote Kingsley.

Robinson, the Vancouver-based mostly attorney, says he’s hardly ever seen this kind of survey utilized in Canada before but that will not suggest they don’t exist, incorporating mock juries are at times established in the United States to check out which defences might have a increased influence on jurors.

He explained Lawful Support Manitoba may possibly be placing funds into Skibicki’s case considering the fact that it is “extremely abnormal” and the stakes are large specified the major allegations from him.

He famous similarities amongst Skibicki’s case and that of Robert Pickton, who was convicted in December 2007 of next-diploma murder in the fatalities of 6 gals who had disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, in what was the biggest serial killer investigation in Canadian historical past.

“We noticed a massive amount of methods allocated to that particular defence, since it was of course a extremely, extremely significant-scale circumstance,” reported Robinson.

Having said that, Skibicki’s defence may possibly run into hurdles if the intent behind the survey is to use the results to renew calls for a choose-on your own demo, he claimed.

“Just due to the fact people have answered the study in a single way isn’t going to automatically suggest that they would not modify their views when given directions by a choose about how to use the legislation to a specific set of info.”


Cambria Harris, daughter of Morgan Harris, shared a url to the study on her social media Tuesday, urging people today to comprehensive it.

“What is disheartening is how ignorant this study is to the family members who are at the moment … likely by way of tension and grief everyday,” she wrote.

A spokesperson for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says it condemns the survey, which “disregards the dignity of the victims and their family members,” in accordance to a Wednesday statement to CBC News.

“We urge for respectful and diligent lawful proceedings that prioritize justice for the victims and their Initially Nations,” the statement claimed.

The faces of three First Nations women are pictured side by side.
Jeremy Skibicki is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and a fourth unidentified lady, whom neighborhood members have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Female. (Submitted by Cambria Harris, Donna Bartlett and Darryl Contois)

But Robinson said defence legal professionals have to act in the most effective interest of their clients without having anxiety of offending some people today.

“That won’t indicate that the survey isn’t really inappropriate, or shouldn’t be manufactured. It may well be inappropriate or should not be produced for different explanations, I don’t know, but it is really not because it’d be unpopular with a single particular group of persons,” he reported.

“As a defence lawyer, you have a obligation to act in the passions of your customer. Often that consists of producing unpopular arguments.”

Skibicki’s six-week demo is scheduled to get started April 29, though jury collection is slated for April 25.

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