Hinges on whether defence lawyer of his choice can find time
Leo Crockwell (front) and lawyers Randy Piercey (left) and Bob Buckingham sit in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Thursday awaiting the start of proceedings in Crockwell’s case. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
Today’s the day — honestly. A final decision on when Leo Crockwell’s trial will get underway was delayed by one more day Thursday to allow a St. John’s defence lawyer more time to figure out whether he’s able to take on the case.
Bob Buckingham is expected to inform the court this morning whether or not he can represent Crockwell at trial.
Crockwell faces several firearms charges following a weeklong armed standoff with police in Bay Bulls in December 2010.
His four-week trial was supposed to get underway Thursday afternoon.
But, with the jury waiting in another room at Newfoundland Supreme Court, the case was called 45 minutes beforehand to discuss two issues — whether to allow Buckingham to become Crockwell’s lawyer and whether to postpone the trial to allow him time to prepare.
In court Tuesday, Justice Richard LeBlanc said if the trial had to be set over, the only available start date would be March 20.
On Thursday, LeBlanc stuck to that date and insisted the trial see no further delays.
“Let me be clear. A fair trial is not a one-sided issue,” the judge said.
“It’s not only for the accused. It’s also about the Crown, the victims and therefore the rights are extended to all parts. The community also has has a vested interest to bolster the public’s confidence in the justice system …
“However, I need you to be represented by counsel. You need to be represented by counsel.”
He then turned to Buckingham and asked him to do all he can to take on the case.
“I just can’t do it, judge,” the defence lawyer said.
He told the judge there is a huge amount of material he would have to review, and added he had 17 other cases between now and March 20.
“There’s no sense saying I’ll give it my best effort when I know it just would not be enough time to prepare,” Buckingham said.
“It wouldn’t be fair to my (existing) clients. Wouldn’t be fair to Mr. Crockwell. It wouldn’t be fair to the court and it wouldn’t be fair to me.”
The judge paused and said, “I appreciate your (candour).”
“Well, Mr. Crockwell,” LeBlanc said, turning to him, “here we are.”
He asked if he could get another lawyer, but Crockwell refused.
“Mr. Buckingham is my choice,” he said.
So the judge requested a private meeting with the lawyers in his chambers.
Buckingham, St. John’s lawyer Randy Piercey, who is acting as amicus curiae, or mediator, in the case, and Crown prosecutor Frances Knickle — who was filling in for Elizabeth Ivany — left the court with the judge.
At the request of the judge, Crockwell stayed in the courtroom.
More than half an hour later, the group emerged and the judge again asked Buckingham if he could try his best to take on the case.
Buckingham said he would look into it further and see if he can juggle his schedule.
He said he would have a final answer today.
The judge then brought in the jury — seven women and five men — and explained there was delays. He asked them to return today.
“One way or another, we will decide then what we are doing,” he said.
If the trial is rescheduled for March, a new jury is expected to be chosen.