Judge wants to stick to February trial date
Sandwiched between two sheriff’s officers, Leo Crockwell waits for proceedings to start at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Thursday. Crockwell’s brother, Bill Crockwell, is shown sitting behind him. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
One way or another, a St. John’s judge is determined to have Leo Crockwell’s trial go ahead as scheduled.
In Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Thursday, Justice Richard LeBlanc made sure everyone agreed, especially Crockwell.
“I’m not prepared to adjourn your trial,” LeBlanc said.
“If there’s any way possible, your trial is going ahead.”
Crockwell has been in custody since December 2010, when he barricaded himself inside his mother’s Bay Bulls home with firearms. The 56-year-old was arrested following a weeklong standoff with police.
He faces several charges for allegedly shooting at police during the incident. Charges of attempted murder were withdrawn earlier this year by the Crown.
Crockwell, who was denied bail, had been represented by St. John’s defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan, who had filed an application to halt the case against him.
But he fired her two months ago and has represented himself in court since then.
Crockwell’s apparent lack of effort to find a new lawyer has concerned the judge, who wants to ensure the new lawyer has enough time to prepare for Crockwell’s Feb. 2 jury trial.
When the case was called last week, LeBlanc issued a stern warning to Crockwell to get a lawyer.
When Crockwell came to court Thursday again unrepresented, LeBlanc asked Crockwell his plans.
“Do you want a lawyer?” the judge asked.
“Yes sir,” Crockwell replied. “But I want to be able to pick him, too.”
Crockwell then went on a rant about having paid his former lawyer $32,000, which he hopes to get back to pay a new lawyer.
“It’s unreasonable to pay all those costs twice,” Crockwell said.
But LeBlanc said Crockwell’s issue with his former counsel is not “a live issue” and that if wanted to address it to contact the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This is a criminal indictment …,” LeBlanc said.
“I’m not saying to forget what went on between you and your lawyer,” the judge said.
“But that is, as far as I’m concerned, irrelevant for what’s going on here now.”
When Crockwell again insisted he needed his money back to hire a new lawyer, the judge took matters into his own hands and presented Crockwell with options.
At the judge’s request, Legal Aid Commission representative John Duggan was in the courtroom to offer Crockwell assistance. Duggan told the judge that if Crockwell qualifies financially, the commission would be more than willing to represent him.
Duggan said he would speak to Crockwell after proceedings and start the process immediately.
If Crockwell doesn’t qualify for legal aid, LeBlanc said the court can either appoint a lawyer for him or appoint an amicus curiae — a friend of the court, or impartial adviser.
“We need to do this now because we are a short time away from your trial and some big decisions have to be made,” LeBlanc said.
When asked her opinion, Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Ivany reiterated the need to get moving on the case.
The judge then made an unusual move and asked Crockwell’s brother, Bill Crockwell, his opinion.
“Right now, the choice is for Leo,” said Bill Crockwell, who stood up from the back of the small courtroom.
“Do you have any concerns about your brother’s ability to make the right decisions?” LeBlanc asked.
“That’s a pretty heavy question,” Bill Crockwell replied. “It seems you’re implying he may not have the ability to do that.”
“Well, it’s crossed my mind,” the judge admitted.
Bill Crockwell answered by saying he didn’t know his brother’s thought processes, but believes having a lawyer would be in his brother’s best interest.
The judge adjourned the case until this afternoon, at which time he said a better determination can be made as to how the case will proceed.
Meanwhile, LeBlanc also raised concerns about the publicity the case is getting in the media. Since Crockwell has elected a jury trial, the judge worried about the potential impact on future jury members.
He said he may impose a publication ban at some point.
He opted not to ban Thursday’s proceedings, but added, “That’s not to say I won’t in the future.”