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No defence evidence called at gang trial

VANCOUVER - Defence lawyers for a pair of alleged Vancouver-area gang members on trial for the murders of six people, including two innocent bystanders, told a judge Monday they won't be calling any evidence, setting the stage for closing arguments to begin next month.

Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston are each charged with one count of conspiracy and six counts of first-degree murder for a mass killing in October 2007. Six bodies were found in a highrise condo in Surrey, southeast of Vancouver.

The Crown wrapped up its case last month after calling 73 witnesses. Defence lawyers then made several applications but hadn't yet revealed whether they intended to call any witnesses.

"Mr. Haevischer elects to call no evidence in this case," Haevischer's lawyer, Simon Buck, told the court.

He was followed by Johnston's lawyer, Michael Tammen: "I can confirm that Matthew Johnston, like Mr. Haevischer, elects to call no evidence."

Judge Catherine Wedge then set the first day of closing submissions for July 2.

The case is related to a mass killing that left six people dead on Oct. 19, 2007.

When the trial began on Sept. 30 of last year, there were three men in the prisoner's box: Haevischer, Johnston and former gang leader Michael Le, who was charged with conspiracy and a single count of first-degree murder.

However, Le pleaded guilty in late November to conspiracy to commit murder after agreeing to become a co-operating witness. The first-degree murder charge was dropped and he was sentenced to 12 years, though he will be eligible to apply for parole by the end of this year.

The Crown has alleged members of the Red Scorpions gang intended to kill a rival drug trafficker, and that five others were killed to eliminate potential witnesses. The victims included fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg, 55, and building resident Chris Mohan, 22, who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Le and another alleged Red Scorpions leader, Jamie Bacon, ordered the execution of Corey Lal, according to the Crown's theory. Haevischer, Johnston and a man who can only be referred to as Person X then carried out the killings, the Crown alleges.

Haevischer and Johnston both pleaded not guilty.

Person X has already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Bacon is also charged with conspiracy and one count of first-degree murder and will be tried separately. Le is also expected to testify at his trial.

Another man, Sophon Sek, is awaiting trial for manslaughter.

The victims included Corey Lal, who the Crown says was the alleged target, Lal's brother Michael, Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo, all of whom had links to gangs and drugs.

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