Triple-murder trial start delayed two weeks

Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank on trial for murder of Castor-area family in December 2013

The start of a trial for two men accused of killing three members of a Castor-area family has been delayed two weeks.

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Eric Macklin granted a two-week adjournment to allow defence lawyers to adequately prepare for what had been slated as a seven-week trial. It will now begin on Oct. 23.

Lawyers for Jason Gordon Klaus and Joshua Gregory Frank argued on Tuesday morning that the trial should be adjourned because Crown prosecutors did not tell the defence they would be relying on Mr. Big evidence to make their case.

Klaus and Frank have been charged with first-degree murder and arson in connection with the deaths of three members of a Castor family on Dec. 8, 2013. Frank was also charged with shooting the family’s dog.

The bodies of Gordon Klaus, 61 and his daughter, Monica, 40 were found in the remains of their farmhouse. The remains of Gordon’s wife, Sandra, 62, were never found but police believe she was in the home.

RCMP arrested and charged two suspects on Aug. 15, 2014 — Monica’s brother, Klaus, and an acquaintance of his, Frank.

Andrea Urquhart, who with lawyer Tonii Roulston is representing Frank, told the judge that prosecutors had agreed to a June 30 deadline to let defence lawyers know how they planned to use Mr. Big evidence in the upcoming trial.

That deadline came and went with no word from Crown prosecutors. Defence lawyers only found out late last month prosecutors planned to make the evidence from a Mr. Big undercover operation a key part of their case.

Urquhart said that “drastically changes” how the accused will be defended. The defence team must now go through 100 hours of audio and audio-video recorded during the undercover sting operation.

“That’s a very large task,” she said.

Lawyer Allan Fay, who is defending Klaus, agreed with the judge’s assessment that the issue came down to trial fairness and fairness to the accused.

“I think the court has hit on the crux of the issue here. It is trial fairness,” said Fay.

Crown prosecutor Douglas Taylor said he only came on to the case on Aug. 29 and did not know why the defence had not been given an indication of the Crown’s Mr. Big evidence intentions back in June or immediately following an Aug. 29 letter from the defence asking for that information.

“You’re right. Somebody should have said something,” he said.

“I wish I could go back in time and do things differently. Regrettably, I can’t,” he said.

After court resumed after a lunch break, Macklin said that he was convinced that if the defence had been notified on Aug. 29 of the role the Mr. Big evidence would likely play in the trial they would have had time to prepare for the start of the trial.

But that did not happen. “I wish to give defence counsel every opportunity to be fully prepared.”

Macklin asked if defence needed a week or two weeks to review the Mr. Big evidence.

Fay said given defence lawyers expect to have to review 10 hours of video and audio recordings per day, two weeks will be required to get through 100 hours.

When court resumes, one of the first jobs of the judge will be to determine whether the Mr. Big evidence is admissible.

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Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff Lawyers Tonii Roulston, Andrea Urquhart (not shown) and Allan Fay are defending Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank, who have been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of three Castor family members.

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