Charges stemming from HMP incident to be dealt with in a few months
Nelson Hart was in provincial court in St. John’s early this year after he was charged with assaulting and threatening correctional officers at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s. — Telegram file photo
Lawyers for a Gander man suspected of drowning his twin daughters in 2002 want to focus on his murder case before tackling his less serious charges.
When the case of Nelson Hart was called in provincial court in
St. John’s Wednesday for a status update on allegations he assaulted and threatened prison guards, defence counsel James Merrigan told Judge David Orr that his office preferred to first deal with the Supreme Court of Canada appeal on whether Hart will get a new trial in his murder case.
Hart had been 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.
He appealed the verdict and sentence shortly afterwards, and the case was in legal limbo for years as Hart held up the process for several reasons while behind bars 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.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Canada gave the prosecution the go-ahead to appeal that decision.
Arguments will be heard in Ottawa Dec. 3.
Hart’s lawyers had planned to seek an application for bail pending the appeal, but earlier this month, withdrew the application.
Meanwhile, Hart also faces charges of uttering threats and assaulting correctional officers at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP), along with counts of destroying HMP property and making a false statement to police from incidents that were said to have happened in January.
In court Wednesday, St. John’s prosecutor Danny Vavasour told the judge the Crown would be proceeding by way of summary conviction on those charges, meaning if convicted, Hart would face a less serious sentence.
Merrigan, who appeared via telephone link from his office in Corner Brook, said his office hasn’t yet formally been retained as Hart’s counsel, but said it was in the process of “working that out with Legal Aid.”
Hart, who appeared in court via video link from HMP, didn’t speak during proceedings, only to say he understood what was going on in the case when the judge asked him if he did.
The case will be back in provincial court Sept. 4, less than a week after Hart’s lawyers are scheduled to file their legal arguments to the Supreme Court of Canada.