Leslie Greenwood says he's close to having a new lawyer for his Nova Scotia Supreme Court retrial in Kentville on two charges of first-degree murder.
That would be a good thing, because Justice Gregory Warner seems to be reaching the end of his patience.
Greenwood is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of a Hants County couple more than 16 years ago. He was convicted after a trial in 2012, but that was overturned on appeal two years later.
Last October, Greewood fired two lawyers working his case on a legal aid ticket and said he wanted to have a Quebec lawyer, who represented him on a different murder trial in that province, handle the case here.
But the court last month turned down an application by that lawyer to be paid at a higher rate than what Nova Scotia Legal Aid was willing to pay.
On Tuesday, Greenwood told Warner that he has two lawyers in Cape Breton who are “quite interested” in taking on his case but they haven't been retained yet.
Warner also received an email Tuesday from the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission that said there were three lawyers who were willing to represent Greenwood.
The judge told Greenwood he didn't want to have another court date without a lawyer present “because, quite candidly, I'm looking at other options if I can't get this finalized.”
He told Greenwood he has reviewed the delays and dates in the case, and wants the matter to proceed in an timely manner.
Warner said he is concerned enough about proceeding in a timely matter that he has researched the possibility and contemplated appointing an amicus curiae. An amicus curiae is a lawyer appointed by the court to act as a friend of the court by watching out for an accused's interests in a proceeding, but does not represent the accused.
“I guess I'm telling you that unless I know that I have counsel committed that you're satisfied with and aren't going to fire so that this retrial can take place, then I've been looking at going down that road,” Warner said.
Crown attorney Shauna MacDonald told Warner that her understanding from the legal aid commission is that it is prepared to fund the Cape Breton lawyers if they are retained, and that approval could be finalized within two weeks.
Greenwood's original legal aid lawyer had to withdraw from the case, and the two lawyers who took on the case last May were fired, after the trial had been set for this month, but before several scheduled pretrial hearings.
It's unlikely now that a new trial will happen before November at the earliest because of court scheduling and the time it would take new lawyers to become familiar with the case.
Greenwood also filed applications with the court Tuesday for a stay of proceedings because of undue delay in the case, and to have the trial moved to Cape Breton.
He told Warner that he spent half of last year at the provincial jail in Cape Breton, and said that “if my counsel is up there, why can't my court be?”
Warner said he would want Greenwood's new counsel to argue those applications, but that some of what he set out in the affidavit for moving the trial “would be an uphill battle with me.”
But, he said, that could be different if the lawyers from Cape Breton are retained.
After court, MacDonald said that the Crown doesn't think any delays in the case have been the fault of the Crown or the court.
Greenwood was charged in 2010 with first-degree murder in connection with the killings of Barry Kirk Mersereau and Nancy Paula Christensen in their Burlington home in September 2000, a homicide linked to the Hells Angels.
He was convicted in 2012 after a Nova Scotia Supreme Court trial in Kentville, but the convictions were overturned by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in September 2014.
Greenwood couldn't start the process of working toward the retrial until the end of 2015 because of the other murder trial in Montreal.
That matter ended in a mistrial last December because the jury there couldn't reach a unanimous verdict. Greenwood will have to have a new trial on those charges, but that can't happen now until the Nova Scotia retrial is concluded.
Two other accused in the Hants County case, Michael Lawrence and Curtis Blair Lynds, have pleaded pleaded in the killings of Mersereau and Christensen.
Lawrence pleaded guilty in 2012 to first-degree murder, while Lynds pleaded guilty two years later to second-degree murder.