A Vancouver Island city councilor and his two adult children have pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder in connection with the beating death of a Victoria-area man last year.

Former Highlands councillor Ken Brotherston, along with his two sons -- Ken Jr. and Gregory - were seated in three separate prison boxes while the judge heard opening arguments on the first day of their trial in B.C. Supreme Court Monday.

The trio was arrested in June 2008 after the body of Keith Taylor was found dumped in a parking lot of the West Shore RCMP detachment. After discovering his body, RCMP officers attempted to revive Taylor, as did paramedics, but he was pronounced dead at the station. The 33-year-old had suffered serious injuries, police said.

In its opening statement to the judge, who is hearing the case without a jury, the Crown said it will enter evidence that Taylor's death was not a case of self-defence.

The Crown says Taylor was beaten at a home where cocaine was being used, and several witnesses to that beating will testify at the trial.

Marie Brotherston, the wife and mother of the accused, was not allowed in the courtroom Monday because she, too, will take to the witness stand at the trial.

Well known and respected

Until he was charged, Brotherston Sr. was a sitting councillor in the municipality of Highlands, a suburb of Victoria.

His arrest shook up the city council.

Former Highlands Mayor Mark Cardinal said Brotherston is well-known and well-respected in the community, and called the case a very 'upsetting and unfortunate situation.'

"I am in complete shock obviously," Cardinal told CTV News after his arrest. "It's something that is not consistent with what I know of Mr. Brotherston."

Brotherston served on several committees on council, including water panels, and worked in construction and heavy equipment apart from his council job, said Cardinal.

Taylor was charged with assault in 2007 in relation to an incident with one of Brotherston's sons, but the charge was stayed.