[JURIST] One of the most complex criminal trials in Canadian legal history gets under way Monday in New Westminster, British Columbia, as Robert William Pickton [CBC case backgrounder] stands accused of murdering 26 women [indictment text], most of them prostitutes and drug addicts in the Vancouver area in the 1990s. The trial will focus on charges relating to six of these murders under Section 235 of the Canadian Criminal Code [text] after BC Supreme Court Justice James Williams decided last summer to divide the counts [CBC report] to avoid overburdening the jury. Pickton has pleaded not guilty to each charge. Pickton was arrested in 2002 after remains were discovered on his pig farm; preliminary hearings for the case have lasted over a year. The trial is also expected to be protracted, with prosecutors expected to call 240 witnesses.
Media frenzy around the case led to a publication ban [court documents] to avoid swaying potential jurors; the ban has been lifted for the trial. Currently the worst serial killer in Canadian history is Marc Lepine, who shot 14 women and himself in Montreal in 1989. AP has more.