Canada’s top court to hear appeal in Hart case

Rosie Mullaley
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Crown to fight N.L. court’s decision to overturn his conviction, grant new trial

Nelson Hart — Telegram file photo

The country’s highest court has agreed to hear a Crown appeal in the case of a Gander man convicted of drowning his twin daughters.

In a decision that was made public Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada gave the prosecution the go-ahead to appeal a court ruling that ordered a new trial for Nelson Hart.

Hart was found guilty in 2007 of first-degree murder in the deaths of three-year-old twins, Karen and Krista, on Aug. 4, 2002 at Gander Lake in central Newfoundland.

Hart appealed the verdict and sentence shortly afterwards, and the case was in legal limbo for years.

The appeal had been scheduled and rescheduled several times, but was halted by various issues Hart had with the process.

The 44-year-old fired several lawyers and was often absent from proceedings, refusing to come out of his cell at the Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B.

Arguments in the case were finally heard in October 2011.

Last fall, the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal ruled 2-1 to overturn the conviction.

The judges concluded that a confession Hart gave during an elaborate undercover RCMP operation should not have been entered as evidence.

They were divided on the key question of whether Hart’s confession, obtained during a so-called “Mr. Big” sting, was the result of improper conduct that violated his rights.

As usual in applications for leave, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for agreeing to hear the case.

While senior Crown Francis Knickle opted not to comment specifically on the case, she told The Telegram the court’s decision to hear the appeal was made based on written material the Crown had provided.

The next step, she said, is to file a formal notice of appeal, after which written material will be filed.

She expects that will take a few months. Once that’s done, the Supreme Court of Canada will set a date for the Crown to argue the appeal in Ottawa in front of  a panel of three judges.

Back in court

Meanwhile, Hart was led into  provincial court in handcuffs Thursday after he was charged in connection with an incident that reportedly happened in jail last month.

On Jan. 30, Hart was said to have assaulted three correctional officers and uttered threats to one of them — weeks after he complained to an appeals judge that he had been mistreated by the guards at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s.

Duty counsel Jane Fitzpatrick originally told Judge Greg Brown that Hart had agreed to plead guilty to uttering threats if the Crown would withdraw the assault charge.

They took a break so she and Crown prosecutor Danny Vavasour could discuss the facts of the case.

When proceedings resumed, Fitzpatrick said she and Vavasour would need more time to sort things out. The case will be back in court March 25.

Hart is not in jail because of these latest charges.

Since his murder conviction was overturned, he could have been freed from jail, but is still behind bars because he has not applied for bail, even though the Crown has said it would be willing to work something out with regard to bail if he applied.

Twitter: @TelyCourt

With files from The Canadian Press

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, Atlantic Institution, Newfoundland and Labrador Court RCMP Canadian Press

Geographic location: Canada, Gander, Gander Lake Renous

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Recent comments

  • Joe Moran
    March 01, 2013 - 10:59

    So if someone has a disability jack, they should go Scott free? Because that's what your implying. It sickens me when people try to use the "disability" story to get pity when they commit a crime.

  • Emma
    March 01, 2013 - 09:27

    Jack, 1st off I don't consider epilepsy a "disability" and believe that those suffering from epilepsy would agree, secondly, are you neglecting the fact that he did murder two 3 year old's, and it is his choice that he has not applied for bail? He shouldn't get out at all, and should suffer for eternity for what he did to those two precious little girls who will NEVER live their lives!!

  • Santo
    March 01, 2013 - 08:55

    Jack! What are you getting on about? When or why should the Crown act as "good sports". There is no question he is indeed responsible for the death of these little girls....just some of the evidence was deemed inadmissable..(for that trial). HE hasn't bothered to apply for bail. He wasn't found innocent. The conviction is overtuned, but the charges are still there. As for his disability...well, I don't understand why this is even an issue. Never in any of the articles I have read, including coverage of the trile, did I hear of him having a seizure. If his epilepsy is so debilating, why didn't we hear of that. I know several people with epilepsy, all with varying degrees of the condition. One has seizures almost weekly, leaving him sick and bed ridden for days, the other has been seizure free for years. So if this is so promenant with Mr. Hart, why haven't they made any mention of a seizure??????? Did he have this as a child and outgrew the seizures, or are they under control with meds? In any case, it doesn't excuse his actions. This is a man who bragged about killing his children, whether he knew Mr. Big was an undercover cop or not, he still bragged about it to make himself look good. Epilepsy or any kind of disability is no excuse for that. How has the justice system mistreated him? He fires lawyers, don't show up for court proceedings...something that I always thought was contempt, and a chargeable offence. Seems to me he is getting special treatment. Seems to me he is getting away with murder. 2 little girls are dead! He is responsible for that. Being in jail, is where he should be. Just too bad he don't have a conscience,,,,or is that a disability too?

  • alice
    March 01, 2013 - 08:27

    if watching his children how did the girls get in the water dont b silly people he should never b able to walk the streets again

  • Jack
    March 01, 2013 - 07:12

    As a disabled person myself, I'm more than appalled at how the Newfoundland and Labrador's Justice System are mistreating disabled persons whom had their conviction overturned but still locked up, particularly Nelson Hart. In the case of Nelson Hart, he had his murder convictions overturned, but instead of being released as per Canadian law, he is still locked up meaning his human rights are violated. To add insult to injury, instead of acting like "good sports" and accepting the Judge's decision, the Crown Prosecutors still are appealing the ruling, meaning they are denying his right to fair justice. Because Nelson is not given a fair trial as the courts failed to accommodate his disability which is Epilepsy, still locked up in jail despite having convictions overturned, and prosecutors acting like poor sports, I believe that this province's Justice System are discriminating against disabled persons and our Justice System should be ashamed of themselves. I'm not condoning the murder of his children, I am condoning how the Justice System continues to mistreat Nelson and other disabled Newfoundlanders and Labradorians becoming victimized from the ignorant Justice System, particularly Chesley Earle and Dane Spurrell.

    • Pam Frampton
      March 01, 2013 - 07:29

      As the article points out, Nelson Hart is still in jail because he simply has not applied for bail.