572 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 79 PART 4 JULY 2021
Mike found his calling in criminal law and joined the Crown counsel
office in Cranbrook. He remained there until 1988, when he transferred to
the Fraser Region. He worked in that region for the rest of his professional
life, keeping a relatively low profile, performing his work responsibly and
diligently. It remained that way until the regional Crown counsel (now
Provincial Court judge) Peder Gulbransen assigned him to lead the Crown
team in one of the biggest mass murder cases in Canadian history: the trial
of Robert Willie Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer.
Mike was tapped for the assignment for his strategic skills, his ability to
see the bigger picture, his ability to assess and understand the essence of
cases, and the fact he was not fazed by cases that appeared complex or overwhelming.
Those traits would be rigorously tested by an experienced and
formidable defence team with a multitude of applications to court, voluminous
disclosure and evidentiary issues over the course of the lengthy trial
Peder Gulbransen’s decision was also based on Mike’s strong understanding
of human nature, his insight into people who were down and out or
were victims of life’s unfair circumstances, and his compassion for them.
Peder noted, as well, that Mike did not have a large ego and was generous
in his praise of colleagues and opponents. Those who knew Mike would
readily agree with that assessment.
During the years that Mike and his team worked on the Pickton case,
counsel on both sides got to know more of Mike as a person. One of Mike’s
colleagues, Derrill Prevett, Q.C. (since retired), recalls him as a “gregarious
guy who would talk to anybody” and who “made no secret of his humble
beginnings ‘in the projects’, as he called them.”
During the Pickton trial, Derrill recalls that Mike:
was fearless in dealing with some of the most “interesting” and difficult
witnesses from the DTES that the prosecution had to deal with. He was
kind and understanding in his dealings with victims’ families, and took
care to make sure, as much as he could, that they understood what was
Marilyn Sandford, Q.C., a senior and respected lawyer who was on the
Pickton defence team, noted that in the early stages of the case, she and
Mike met on a number of occasions for the purpose of providing disclosure
in electronic and other forms. They would meet in a typical Mike fashion:
at a gas station in Port Moody or, at other times, at a restaurant.
Mike did not hold grudges, or if he did have one, it would not last long.
This is exemplified by an incident that occurred during the Pickton trial
when Mike had a disagreement with one of the counsel on the defence
team that escalated and some strong words were exchanged. Ms. Sandford