New lawyer brings strategic shift to murder trial for Penticton man

Defence will now seek a preliminary inquiry for former Mountie accused of killing his common-law wife

The retired Okanagan Mountie charged with murdering his common-law wife has picked up new lawyers and, seemingly, a new strategy.

A lawyer for Keith Wiens, who is alleged to have shot and killed 55-year-old Lynn Kalmring in their shared Penticton home on Aug. 16, 2011, announced his intent to file several applications in the days ahead.

New defence counsel Chris Evans told a Kelowna courtroom Monday that he intended to have the preliminary inquiry portion of Wiens’ trial brought back into the timeline.

The preliminary inquiry is used to vet evidence before it goes to trial, and Wiens chose to waive it and go directly to trial in October of last year.

Also on the agenda for Evans is a motion to have Wiens released from custody. It is one of the things Kalmring’s family is most afraid of, especially since some of them live and work in Penticton where he potentially could return to.

“He shouldn’t have the freedom … he has destroyed a lot of lives,” said Donna Irwin, sister of murdered woman.

Wiens had originally been released from prison on bail, and was living in his Penticton home that he had shared with Kalmring after his arrest, but he allegedly broke the terms of his release in January and was brought back into custody. He was denied bail on the single charge of breach of conditions, his next court appearance for that is Oct. 3 in Penticton to fix a date.

Those are some of the significant changes in a process that’s been stalled for some time. The trial was previously slated to start in Penticton June 11, but Wiens’ former lawyer Dan Skogstad successfully lobbied to have it moved to Kelowna. Skogstad said pretrial publicity in Penticton may have tainted the limited jury pool, making it difficult for Wiens to get a fair shake in court.

A busy court roster didn’t allow for the same date to be transferred over, however, and the new trial has yet to be scheduled. That matter is expected to be squared away Oct. 29.

Moving forward, there may be more changes as Evans, Wiens’ new counsel, is considered one of Alberta’s top legal minds and has been dubbed a “tenacious advocate for the accused.”

In 2010, Evans published his memoir, called A Painful Duty: 40 years at the Criminal Bar, that touched on noteworthy cases from all across the socio-economic spectrum. The commonality between those cases may have been found simply in the practice of criminal law, which he referred to  as “greatly akin to shovelling manure down in the sewer.”

According to Canadian Lawyer Magazine, Evans retired in 2010 but returned to practice law recently, with new partners ex-RCMP officer Patrick Fagan and Ian McKay to form the firm Evans Fagan McKay. Evans told the Western News on Monday that McKay is also helping represent Wiens.

With files from Kathy Michaels, Kelowna Capital News.