Former Mountie’s murder trial moved to Kelowna

Pre-trial publicity and size of Penticton courthouse results in change of venue

A retired Mountie accused of killing his common-law wife in 2011 will have his upcoming trial relocated to Kelowna from Penticton.

Supreme Court Justice Alison Beames granted a change of venue application filed on behalf of Keith Wiens Wednesday, finding that pretrial publicity in Penticton may have tainted the limited jury pool, making it difficult for the defendant to get a fair shake in court.

Wiens allegedly shot and killed his common-law spouse Lynn Kalmring, 55,  in their Penticton home Aug. 16 2011.  Both were longtime residents of the South Okanagan with deep roots in the community, and Kalmring’s death prompted a significant outpouring.

“There was clearly less publicity (in Kelowna),” Beames said, referencing a stack of Penticton-based blog posts, internet-forum musings and newspaper articles that had been printed off by Wiens’ lawyer Neil Skogstad to illustrate cause for the application.

“And the pool of jurors is three times as large.”

Another troublesome detail factored into Beames’s decision was the physical restraints of Penticton’s courthouse.

Current facilities couldn’t accommodate the potentially large pool of prospective jurors if a proceeding called challenge for cause was used, said Beames, suggesting  they may have to be housed in a nearby hotel and individually escorted to the court for their interviews.

Although the Kelowna courthouse may be more accommodating in terms of size, Beames’s decision to grant relocation may create a secondary strain on the system.

Wiens was scheduled for trial June 11, but it’s unclear as of yet whether the local courthouse can accommodate a trial at that time.

Lawyers will meet April 20 to establish the potentially new timeline for the trial, which will either follow the previously established timeline, be shuffled to late summer or early fall.

Wiens, who was in court Wednesday wearing prison-orange, had his bail revoked in January after allegedly violating his bail conditions.