— Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram
The lawyer for a Gander man who had his conviction for killing his twin daughters overturned says he has been reassured by Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) that his client will be given every opportunity available to contact his legal counsel.
Jeff Brace is now Nelson Hart’s lawyer of record for a potential bail hearing in the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal.
An application for bail had not been filed prior to Hart’s appearance in court Tuesday morning in St. John’s.
While speaking before Chief Justice Derek Green, Brace addressed concerns previously raised by Hart about guards preventing his client from contacting legal counsel.
During Hart’s appearance last Tuesday, the 44-year-old said guards had “blocked him” from attempting to call a lawyer.
Hart dismissed his previous legal counsel last month and was attempting to find a new lawyer. He said prison staff did not provide him with a phone book.
Brace said he recently spoke with HMP superintendent Don Roche about Hart’s suggested difficulties and was told further contact between him and Hart will be accommodated.
Hart was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2002 deaths of his three-year-old twin daughters Karen and Krista. The girls died in Gander Lake.
Last September, a panel of three judges ordered that Hart’s conviction be overturned, determining that Hart’s confession to undercover RCMP officers was improperly coerced. It ordered that Hart receive a new trial.
The Crown has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Brace expressed concern to Green about whether he will be restricted in the advice he can give to Hart pertaining to his legal matters.
While Brace is covered by the Attorney General of Newfoundland to represent Hart in the Court of Appeal, Hart does not have legal representation on the Supreme Court of Canada matter.
“I will not say to this man, ‘I can’t talk about that because the Department of Justice doesn’t want me to talk about that,’” said Brace.
Green suggested to Brace that in preparation for a bail application, it’s acceptable to discuss an impending trial in general terms. But Brace said that was not the impression he was given in speaking with the Department of Justice.
Green then said an order made last fall in relation to the appointment of Hart’s previous counsel stated they would be appointed to handle judicial release and any incidental matters related to the Court of Appeal.
Brace said that would satisfy his concerns, and David Rodgers, representing the attorney general, said his office would have no problem with such an order.
Green made the appointment prior to the conclusion of Tuesday’s appearance for Hart.
Crown prosecutor Frances Knickle also suggested there is urgency to move forward if Brace intends to handle Hart’s Supreme Court of Canada case and said that he would need to file an application soon.