‘I’m not trying to prolong this’

Rosie
Rosie Gillingham
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Appeal panel agrees to let Nelson Hart have new lawyer, evidence package

He’s fired numerous lawyers, has often been non-responsive and disruptive during court proceedings and has refused to show up several times.

Yet Nelson Hart insists he’s not intentionally trying to delay his appeal.

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“Some of you guys think I’m trying to prolong this,” Hart told a Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal panel in St. John’s Monday. “I’m not trying to prolong this.”

Hart is serving a life sentence for two counts of first-degree murder for the 2002 drownings of his twin three-year-old daughters.

He was convicted in 2007.

After five years of legal wrangling trying to get the appeal underway, arguments were supposed to be heard Monday.

 

However, Hart — appearing via videolink from the Atlantic Institutition in Renous, N.B., — told the three judges that before his appeal can go ahead, he wants a new lawyer, as well as the entire court information package of his case delivered to him.

“I’ve been locked up for six years and not given disclosure,” Hart said.

“It’s frustrating. I just want to get on with this case and have it done and over.”

When the case was called last week, Hart’s latest lawyer, Rosellen Sullivan, was relieved of her duties after he requested in April that she be taken off his case.

Hart didn’t show up for those proceedings.

He got to have his say on Monday.

And he had plenty to say about what he believes are injustices done to him since the case started.

While Hart talked briefly about the RCMP sting that ultimately led to his arrest, and about being in segregation in prison, his biggest beef was the fact that neither of his lawyers had given him the information on his case.

He told the panel that if he had all the information — including the transcript from the trial, the Crown’s evidence, police interviews and appeal packages — he would be better informed and could help his lawyer.

“I’m to the point where it’s a guessing game for me now. … I don’t know what’s going on …,” said Hart, sounding calm and collected.

“This is why the case is so complicated for me. I didn’t receive any of that (disclosure).

“I’m left out in the cold. I would definitely love to be working at my appeal.”

St. John’s lawyer Randy Piercey — the court-appointed amicus, or mediator, in the case — agreed that Hart should have all the material.

“He’s indicated he wants to participate, but I feel he can’t participate if he hasn’t seen the transcript of the trial. … To participate, he needs all the material,” Piercey said.

“It’s best if he is properly prepared, so I suggest we give him time to get counsel and see the transcript.”

Crown prosecutor Steve Dawson pointed out that Hart had every opportunity to get the material himself, but agreed that Hart should have the information.

“This is coming a bit late in the day,” Dawson said, “but if the court feels he should have it, I will go along with it.”

Members of the panel — which included Chief Justice Derek Green, Justice Leo Barry and Justice Michael Harrington — asked Hart questions and made comments throughout the two-hour proceedings.

Barry pointed to Hart’s past conduct.

“The court has to make sure the person (making the appeal) is not deliberately delaying the process. I’m not saying you are, but at times people want to drag things out,” Barry said.

“I’m certainly not,” Hart replied.

“But you haven’t been as co-operative as you could have been,” Barry replied.

“For example, we didn’t even know this morning if you’d be at the other end of the camera. Last week, you didn’t even appear. That’s water under the bridge, but for the future, we have to move things along.”

Green agreed that delays should try to be avoided in the future.

“We want to make sure you’re dealt with fairly and properly,” Green said.

“But you can’t frustrate the process and put up road blocks. Then they would just say you’re being an obstructionist.”

“Some of you guys think I’m trying to prolong this. I’m not trying prolong this.” Nelson Hart

The panel then adjourned to consider Hart’s requests.

During the break, Hart’s mother, Pearl, addressed her son, pleading with him to be more co-operative.

“My biggest frustration here is I know you’re an innocent man … You’re spending time in prison and I know you should not be there …,” she said.

“But listen, my love. If you get another lawyer, I have one question: Will you stop refusing to talk with that lawyer when they want to talk with you, coming to the prison when they want to visit you, answering any mail from the courts, coming on a conference when they want you to? Will you do all that and get this out of your mind that the courts are doing the same to you as the undercover sting done?

“That’s not the way the justice system works. They did you wrong big time. They scarred you for life. Now, you have to trust us — me as your mother, Jennifer as your wife — but most of all, you have to trust the courts and your lawyer.”

She was interrupted by the court clerk, who informed her the judges were ready to make a ruling.

When they returned, Green told the court that the panel has ruled that Hart be given all information, including the CD of the RCMP interview with undercover police officers involved in the sting. However, the panel ruled that no one else in the prison be allowed access to it in order to protect the undercover officers’ identities.

They agreed to adjourn the case until June 28 to allow Hart time to find a new lawyer, whose fee would be paid by the Attorney General. If there is no lawyer present at that time, Green said, the panel will entertain the motion to have Hart argue the appeal himself.

 

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

This article has been edited to correct an error.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Court, RCMP, Atlantic Institute

Geographic location: Renous

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Recent comments

  • Herb Morrison
    June 07, 2011 - 20:09

    What does it say about any person’s concept of either justice or compassion when the only sense of loss they choose to be concern ed about, as they evaluate the situation surrounding the case of Nelson Hart is the loss of dollars and cents from their collective wallet. Get a grip people. Essentially, three lives have been lost and the lives of others involved in this situation have been irreversibly altered. Two children are dead and Nelson Hart faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars following his conviction. What does it say about the sense of priorities that some people have when in a pain-filled situation such as the Nelson Hart case their only concern is the cost involved in the proper administration of justice.

  • mary
    June 07, 2011 - 10:14

    Who would ever let two three year olds get so close to looking into deep water without both arms wrapped safely around them???? My children when they were that age were scared of walking over the wharf because they could see the water through the openings in the wharf underneath them. They would have to be reassured and carried over the wharf to see poppy with his fish, knowing they were safe in our arms. These little princesses' should not be gone, their features are imprinted in my brain!! I hope he never gets out of prison...

  • Peggy
    June 07, 2011 - 10:14

    I was wondering why, please, my comment wasn't published. Maybe it ist because I referred to God? Yet, the word Hell can be published, referring to Satan or the Devil. It can't be because I mentioned the mother and paternal grandmother, because another comment here referred to the two of them.

  • John
    June 07, 2011 - 09:52

    This guy has wasted enough appeal court time that they could probably have heard an uncomplicated case appealing a case such as a judge had made an error to a jury or that a covict was given not enough / too much time in jail. If this delay leads to a case of fireing another lawyer, the court should say enough is enough and uphold the sentence; he has wasted enough of the courts time using every tactic possible to delay things. If he truly believed he was wronged, he would have done everything he could to help the court prove his innosence.

  • Herb Morrison
    June 07, 2011 - 09:33

    On Nelson Hart I posted this awhile back but it bears repeating of recent developments in this siruation. When we as a society are forced to acknowledge the reality that people like people such as Nelson Hart and Russell Williams live in our midst; and when we are forced to come to terms with the unspeakable crimes which these men have been convicted of committing, we are faced with a daunting task. One reason we struggle in dealing with the individuals convicted of heinous crimes is the fact that the crimes committed by the Nelson Harts and Russell Williams of the world defy reason. Initially when we hear of this type of crime our knee-jerk reaction is often unreasonable. When Nelson Hart was arrested for allegedly leaving his two little girls to drown in a pond while cold-bloodedly driving away from the scene; I was tempted to wish that he be sentenced to meet a similar fate albeit drowning while weighted down by the millstone around his neck. However, such action on my part would be as lacking in reason as was Nelson Hart’s action was when he left his daughters to drown. If the courts adopt a stance on this case, which denies Nelson hart the opportunity to what is called due process, are the courts committing an injustice? I believe so. One of the mainstays of our justice system is that a person is entitled to due process. Should the Courts deny Nelson Hart access to due process, the courts, on our behalf, would be committing an injustice. When Nelson Hart allegedly left those two little girls to drown, he committed an injustice. Personally I don’t want to be in the same category as a Nelson Hart, however, if the courts, which act in my interests, were to deny Nelson Hart the benefit of due process, that is exactly what would be happening. Nelson Hart is not eligible for parole until 2032. That’s twenty years from now. Add to that the fact that in 2032 Nelson Hart may not be granted parole and it is reasonable to assume that he will never again be in a position to harm another human being. Furthermore, when you consider the reality that, within any penal institution, persons convicted of crimes against both women and children must live with the threat that they could be injured or even killed by other inmates, the life of Nelson Hart is effectively over. For the benefit of those people who believe that Nelson Hart should rot in Hell, the good news is, he is probably doing exactly that.

  • Anna
    June 07, 2011 - 09:25

    Why are my tax dollars paying for lawyers for this low life? You can tell what type of people these are when his own mother and wife believe his innoncence and two darling little girls are dead. He is making a mockery of the justice system and allowed to get away with it. Remember Turner???????

  • cliff
    June 07, 2011 - 08:17

    Hart is just playing the system. Canada needs to be more strict on criminals and the court needs to clamp down on games like Hart is playing, wasting time and money. This irritates me, in fact everything irritates me.

    • Sheila
      June 07, 2011 - 08:37

      Mr. Hart like so many criminals that do not want to do the time for their crimes is playing the System and wasting taxpayers money. He was given a lawyer, found guilty and then decides for his appeal to play I blame my lawyer so give me another free one. He has proven that he has a temper by being disruptive in court. I wonder were 2 - 3 yr.olds making him mad that day and he just will not admit that a grown man has no self control and murdered his babies? Enough money wasted the court needs to say this lawyer or nothing but jail.

  • stephen short
    June 07, 2011 - 07:08

    If I were not guilty,I would do every thing I needed to do to try and prove the same.This is a strange situation.ultimately though,two girls are dead.