Six days into his trial, Leo Crockwell fires his lawyer, opts to represent himself
Leo Crockwell — Telegram file photo
Leo Crockwell walked out of the prisoner's docket and up to the lawyers' table.
With his shackles removed, he shuffled through papers, pulled in his chair and pushed up his glasses on his face.
On Friday, the sixth day of his trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's, the 57-year-old defendant became his own counsel.
"As you can see from the seating arrangement, things have changed," Justice Richard LeBlanc told the jury shortly after Crockwell opted to dismiss his lawyer, Ken Mahoney.
"Mr. Crockwell has decided he wants to represent himself, and that's his right. That should not be seen as something that would go against him.
"I have asked Mr. Mahoney to remain in the courtroom in case Mr. Crockwell decides to re-engage him."
The judge then explained that St. John's defence lawyer Randy Piercey will take a more active role in the trial as amicus, or mediator.
"Mr. Piercey has been quiet. That will change," LeBlanc said.
"He will now (participate) more fully in this trial, asking questions and raising objections, presenting any evidence that might support the defence. He will participate when he feels necessary."
The first witness to be questioned by Crockwell, was Cpl. Shawn Puddester, the forensic identification officer who examined the Crockwell family's Bay Bulls home after his eight-day standoff with the RCMP in December 2010.
Earlier this week, Mahoney had opted to postpone cross-examining Puddester until the jury had seen the three-hour-long video of the scene.
Crockwell seemed more than happy to conduct the cross-examination.
He appeared confident as he asked questions and was clearly familiar with the evidence after a year and a half of studying it in jail.
Crockwell first asked Puddester about the absence of photographs of the house's rear door.
While the photo booklet entered into evidence includes pictures of the screen door, Crockwell pointed out, there was none of the rear door that was behind it.
Puddester explained that the rear door would eventually be physically brought into the courtroom.
Crockwell then went on to say that on Dec. 8, 2010 - the day police claim a gun shot was fired from inside the house - the bullet would've had to have passed through both doors, with the blast hole aligning on both doors. Crockwell pointed out the holes in the screen door did not align with the marks on the rear door.
"I'm not the correct witness to give an opinion on projectory," Puddester replied. "I can't answer that."
"So, you're telling me," Crockwell shot back, "with your experience, you could not make a determination on that?"
"No," Puddester replied.
Crockwell then asked Puddester questions about the two firearms that were found on the property. He asked whether or not they had been examined to determine if they had been discharged.
Puddester repeated that it was not in his realm of expertise.
He also asked if Puddester received the final report from the mainland laboratory, where he sent the swab and DNA tests he conducted on the two firearms and shells.
Puddester said the results went to the major crime investigators and it would not be his responsibility to receive the results.
Crockwell asked about the firearms shells Puddester swabbed. He pointed out that Puddester had testified earlier this week that he tested nine shells. Yet, in his report, he said he tested 10.
Puddester first admitted there was a discrepancy, but later said the 10th shell was one found in a shed, in a boot, on the property.
Crockwell also questioned Puddester about the gas residue found and Emergency Response Team devices found in the house, as well as the robot.
Each time, Puddester said he had no expertise to give an opinion on such items.
While Crockwell appeared to make some valid points, his approach was often unfocused, prompting the judge to interject several times.
The jury was sent out of the courtroom three times so LeBlanc could explain the procedures of questioning to Crockwell.
LeBlanc had to remind Crockwell at least five times to ask a question instead of a making a statement.
"Sorry, Your Honour," Crockwell said at one point. "I get passionate."
Crockwell has been behind bars since his arrest on Dec. 11, 2010, when he slipped out a side window of the house, which had been surrounded by RCMP officers.
He's pleaded not guilty to eight charges - assault with a weapon, using a firearm while committing an assault and uttering threats towards his sister, along with mischief by interfering with property; carelessly using a firearm, possessing a firearm without a licence and intentionally discharging a firearm.
The latter charge carries a minimum sentence of four years in prison.
RCMP Const. Kurt Russell, the exhibit custodian, started his testimony late Friday afternoon and is expected back on the stand Monday when the trial continues.
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