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Lawyers for family of Manitoba beheading victim consider appeal; killer to remain in psych ward

Vince Li, accused of stabbing, beheading and cannibalizing another man on a Greyhound bus in Canada ,is brought to a Portage La Prairie, Canada, court on Aug. 5, 2008. Li pleaded not guilty at the start of his murder trial in Winnipeg Tuesday, March 3, 2009.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John WoodS)

Lawyers for the family of a young man beheaded on a Greyhound bus are considering taking those determining the killer's fate to the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

Norman Boudreau and Jay Prober are criticizing the Criminal Code review board hearing for Vince Li. They allege the chairman is in a conflict of interest because his firm is representing Greyhound in pending civil lawsuits over the case.

They also argue the board has no right to withhold its ruling from the public to protect Li's privacy. Both lawyers said if the board doesn't make its entire ruling public, the family of victim Tim McLean will consider a challenge in Appeal Court.

Boudreau raised both concerns at the hearing held Monday, but board chairman John Stefaniuk said the board was "disinclined" to grant him standing to pursue either issue, and the matter was quickly dropped.

Boudreau alleges Stefaniuk is in a clear conflict, even though he is an environmental lawyer who isn't directly involved in the Greyhound lawsuit. As chairman, Stefaniuk would have "privileged information" about the Li case, which could be shared within the firm, Boudreau said.

Li was found not criminally responsible for killing McLean in front of horrified passengers near Portage la Prairie, Man., last summer. A judge ruled in March that Li suffered from untreated schizophrenia and did not realize that killing the 22-year-old carnival worker was wrong.

The review board has decided to keep Li locked up under heavy security in a mental hospital. The board has not decided on whether it will release to the public the reasons for its decision.

Stefaniuk said it would be inappropriate to comment on the conflict allegations. The concerns raised by the McLean family will be addressed "by the review board in its reasons for decision," he said in an e-mail.

But those reasons aren't likely to be made public out of concern for Li's privacy.

The McLean family's defense lawyers did "not establish to the satisfaction of the board" that they deserved standing at the hearing, Stefaniuk added.

Those who had standing -- Li's lawyers and the Crown -- were asked if the chairman should excuse himself and "each confirmed to the board that there was no issue," Stefaniuk said.

Review board proceedings as they relate to Li have been dogged by controversy. Stefaniuk initially said the board couldn't release its ruling because that would violate Li's right to privacy as a patient. The board's decision would be released only to Li, the Crown and the hospital responsible for Li's care, he said.

After an outcry, Stefaniuk said the board was re-evaluating its legal advice and would probably release "basic information" about the decision, but not detailed reasons. The McLean family would also receive a copy of the board's decision, he conceded.

But that hasn't addressed the concerns of McLean's family, defense lawyers said.

Greyhound is being sued by both the McLean family and bus passengers who claim the bus line didn't ensure passenger safety. Prober, who is representing the plaintiffs, said he will move for Stefaniuk's law firm to be removed from the case once the civil suit gets to court.

In the meantime, the family will fight to ensure all details of Li's fate are made public, as they are in provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia, Prober said.