Friends and family members of the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton gathered outside a British Columbia courthouse Monday for an aboriginal purification ceremony.

Inside the court, a defence lawyer laid out his case for the B.C. Appeal Court to overturn Pickton's convictions on six counts of second-degree murder.

Gil McKinnon told the appeal court panel that there was a lot of confusion among jury members over the question of whether Pickton acted alone in some of the murders.

McKinnon said that confusion only got worse after the jury asked a question of the trial judge six days into deliberations.

"At least one or more jurors seemed to be having difficulty on whether Robert Pickton was the sole shooter of the three women," McKinnon told the appeal panel, referring to the murders of Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway and Andrea Joesbury.

The women's severed heads were found on the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam. Each woman had been shot in the head.

McKinnon outlined five grounds of appeal, including that the trial judge made errors in his charge to the jury and then changed his instructions to the jury when it came back with the question.

Justice James Williams told the jurors at the time that he regretting misinforming them, and that they could consider both that Pickton actually shot some of the victims or was an active participant but didn't pull the trigger.

The jury did eventually come back in December 2007 with a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder on all six counts.

Both the defence and the Crown are appealing the case.

The defence wants the convictions overturned while the Crown is counter-appealing, saying Pickton should be convicted of first-degree murder. If the verdicts are overturned and a new trial ordered, the Crown wants Pickton tried on all 26 counts of murder he was originally charged with at one trial, instead of having the counts separated into different trials.

The trial judge separated the charges at Pickton's original trial, and the 59-year-old former pig farmer has only faced the court on six of the charges.

The prosecution has already announced that if the defence appeal fails, it will drop plans for a trial on the remaining 20 charges.

It's a move that would disappoint Gladys Radek who was among about 20 people outside the courthouse showing support for the family members.

"I'd like to see them really nail Robert Pickton," she said. "I would really like to see the other 20 come forward, because you know what, those families deserve justice too."

Pickton has been convicted of killing Abotsway, Wilson, Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey and Brenda Wolfe.

Three of Papin's sisters, including Cynthia Cardinal, were also at the courthouse Monday.

"We still have no closure. We're really looking for that," Cardinal said as the hearing started.

Susan Reeves told a small crowd gathered outside the court house prior to the start of the appeal hearing that a public inquiry is the only way to get to the truth about how so many women disappeared without flags being raised.

Wilson's brother, Jason Fleury, believes Vancouver police have much to answer for, including questions of racism that have arisen over the proportion of native women among the missing from the Downtown Eastside.

"If this procedure was done right, Mona would be alive today. For years we were going to VPD telling them that our people are missing from the Downtown Eastside and they refused to listen," he said.

Fleury claims it wasn't until a Caucasian woman went missing that police started looking into the case.

Many of the dozens of women who vanished over decades from the Downtown Eastside are of First Nations descent.

The defence argument is expect to last up to three days.

The entire appeal is expected to last nine days.