Judge modifies publication ban in B.C. assisted suicide trial
Dirk Meissner
Canadian Press

September 30, 2004
VICTORIA (CP) -- A B.C. Supreme Court judge has modified a publication ban in an assisted suicide trial in Duncan after the order was challenged by several media outlets.
Evelyn Martens, 74, faces two charges of helping two British Columbia women commit suicide. She faces a maximum of 14 years in jail.
A lawyer for the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper and CanWest/Global television stations CH News from Victoria and Vancouver's BCTV News argued the two-page ban was too broad.
"The reason we went before the court was because the ban, as it stood, was in very broad language and language that could, when you think about it, prevent publication of all sorts of things that really would not threaten the fairness of the trial," lawyer Dan Burnett said.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies modified the ban by dropping one section of the ban completely and deleting three words from two other sections.
"The purpose of the change was to make sure the ban didn't prevent legitimate discussion," Burnett said.
"The remaining ban is there to prevent interference with a fair trial."
Martens is charged with aiding and counselling former nun Monique Charest, 64, to commit suicide on Jan. 7, 2002 in Duncan, about 60 kilometres north of Victoria.
She is also charged with aiding and counselling Vancouver school teacher Leyanne Burchell, 52, to end her life June 26, 2002.
Both women were believed to be terminally ill.
The section of the ban that was removed following the media challenge barred reporting of "comments, statements, descriptions or speculation about evidence or information which is not heard by the jury, including any evidence heard at the preliminary hearing."
The ban now bars "statements which may reflect adversely upon the character of the accused or conduct of the accused which is not heard by the jury" and "statements which reflect adversely upon the strength or weakness of the accused's defence or the guilt or the innocence of the accused."
The original ban was ordered on Sept. 20, the day the trial started. It was revised Sept. 27.
The trial is expected to last six weeks. A jury is scheduled to be chosen on Oct. 12.
In a letter to the court delivered Sept. 28, Burnett said the ban "goes far beyond the law of contempt and is unjustifiable to the extent that it exceeds the law of contempt."
Martens has maintained a low profile since her June 26, 2002 arrest on a highway near Victoria shortly after getting off a ferry from Vancouver.
 Canadian Press 2004