The appeal of a man’s conviction in the murder of his twin daughters will go ahead next month with or without him, a judge in the province’s highest court has ruled.
Justice Gale Welsh made the decision Wednesday afternoon when Nelson Hart’s case was called in Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in St. John’s.
“Despite the fact we don’t really know Mr. Hart’s wishes, since he changes his mind regularly, I will order that the matter proceed on June 6 and 7,” Welsh said.
It’s not known what Hart thought about the decision because he chose not to take part.
Hart was supposed to have appeared via videolink from the Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., but was a no-show, leaving lawyers to update Welsh on the status of the case.
Hart is serving a life sentence for two counts of first-degree murder for the 2002 drownings of his twin three-year-old daughters, Karen and Krista, at Gander Lake. He was convicted in 2007 and is ineligible for parole until at least 2032.
The first issue to resolve Wednesday was that of counsel.
Rosellen Sullivan told the judge Hart had asked that she be dismissed as his lawyer.
Sullivan was appointed as Hart’s counsel in May 2010 and has spent hours on the case and taken several trips to Renouf to visit Hart.
She filed the application two weeks ago to be taken off the case after Hart informed her April 12 he wanted new representation.
“He’s leaving us all wondering what his reasons are,” Welsh said.
When the judge asked Crown prosecutor Steve Dawson his position on Hart’s decision, Dawson replied, “Mr. Hart has the right to his own counsel. He wants to discharge (Sullivan), so the court has no choice but to discharge her.”
Welsh agreed to have Sullivan discharged.
It’s not the first time Hart has parted ways with his lawyer.
After finally agreeing to representation, he ended up firing Legal Aid lawyer Derek Hogan last year.
The court then consented to give Hart private counsel and Sullivan took over the case.
It was also agreed his lawyers’ fees would be paid by the Attorney General.
The court has tried to get Hart’s appeal off the ground since it was first filed in April 2007.
Since then, Hart has caused several disruptions and delays. Beside changing lawyers, he’s failed to show up a few times, made demands to the court and, at times, has been non-responsive during proceedings.
Before proceedings wrapped up Wednesday, Welsh told St. John’s lawyer Randy Piercey — who was appointed in January 2009 to act as an amicus curiae, or impartial adviser, to help have the appeal heard — to update Hart on what’s happening with the case.
This article has been edited to correct an error.