Mistrial application denied for Princeton double-murderer

The application for a mistrial relating to the Princeton double murder in 2013 was denied Thursday.

John Ike Koopmans escorted by sheriffs after he found his mistrial application was denied on Thursday at the Penticton courthouse.

The application for a mistrial relating to the Princeton double murder in 2013 was denied Thursday.

John Ike Koopmans, 51, was convicted in April for the second degree murders of Robert Keith Wharton, 43, and Rosemary Fox, 32, as well as the attempted murder of Bradley Martin, 51.

However, Koopman’s defence counsel Don Skogstad applied for a mistrial on the charge of attempted murder in August. Skogstad said the jury was not given options for lesser charges prior to their deliberation in April. The lesser charges would have included unlawfully causing bodily harm, wounding and assault causing bodily harm, but the jury was only presented with the options of guilty or not guilty on the attempted murder charge.

“This was a non-lethal shot and (Martin) wasn’t pursued and (Koopmans) had no motive. Did he really want to kill this guy? Or just get him out of the way,” Skogstad said outside Supreme Court on Thursday.

He said the options for lesser charges were overlooked by all involved at the end of the eight-week trial.

“There was three of us in that room. The judge, me and Crown. None of us thought of that. It was pretty hectic on that Thursday night,” Skogstad said.

Justice Miriam Maisonville ruled she did not have the Supreme Court jurisdiction to make an assessment on the matter, and that it would have to be taken to the B.C. Court of Appeal for review.

“I believe that this is the proper assessment to be made by the court of appeal and not the proper function for me to say,” Maisonville said.

“It’s an emerging area where it looks like the trend is that these errors should get corrected at the lower court, but this judge feels that it hasn’t,” Skogstad said after the proceedings.

The Crown and defence both presented case law in a tricky legal area regarding the jurisdiction of a judge post-verdict but pre-sentence.

“I find that there are limited circumstances in which a mistrial can be declared by the court following the jury’s verdict of guilty, but in this situation this is not one of those appropriate situations where the court should exercise its discretion to declare a mistrial,” Maisonville said.

Skogstad told the Western News that an appeal is being considered.

“From the day of the conviction, I have a client who is adamant about his innocence and we have learned additional information since the trial,” Skogstad said. “There’s lots of reasons to think there will be an appeal.”

Koopmans is expected to be handed his sentence on Oct. 6, as the multi-day sentencing proceedings begin Sept. 25. The length of the sentence could range from 17 to 30 years, and the issue of parole eligibility will also be discussed.

In April, the seven jurors recommended a 15-year minimum of time served before becoming eligible for parole for each count of second-degree murder; five jurors made no recommendation. The decision is left up to Justice Maisonville, though the recommendations from the jury will be taken into consideration.

Koopmans was quiet and showed no emotion when hearing the mistrial application was denied. He faces two mandatory life sentences.


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