Crown ordered to pay for woman’s lawyer

The Crown has been ordered to pay for the lawyer of a woman preparing for a second second-degree murder trial.

The Crown has been ordered to pay for the lawyer of a woman preparing for a second second-degree murder trial.

The case of Alicia Murphy boils down to how much choice you get when you are being represented by a legal aid lawyer.

Both sides agreed that there is no “absolute right” to pick whoever you want. But Murphy’s lawyer argued that she was, in fact, getting no choice at all.

“In my view, the essential issue here is whether the accused has been provided with a genuine choice about the counsel she wishes to represent her on this very serious charge, for which she faces a sentence of life imprisonment if found guilty,” Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower explained in his 21-page decision.

Murphy was convicted of murder in the 2008 death of Evangeline Billy. Murphy appealed that decision and was granted a retrial. That’s scheduled for June of next year.

She applied for legal aid and specifically asked to be represented by local lawyer Jennifer Cunningham, who had represented her at the appeal.

Legal aid told her that Donald Campbell, a lawyer from Kamloops, B.C., had been chosen.

“The board explained that this was primarily for two reasons. First, Mr. Campbell has almost 30 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer and has specialized in defending murder charges,” Gower said.

“Second, that he had recently represented a young adult male charged with first-degree murder, at the request of legal aid, and that legal aid thought he ‘did excellent work’ and ‘uses common sense when resolving matters.’”

She was told that if she did not want Campbell, she could pay for a lawyer of her own.

In an affidavit, Murphy told the court she was concerned about the wording of this letter. She intends to plead not guilty and fight the charges in court.

She said she’d heard Campbell was identifying himself as her lawyer before he had even talked to her.

Part of Murphy’s original appeal was the accusation that she had ineffective counsel from her first legal aid lawyers.

Though that was not the part of the appeal she won, she said she is mistrustful of the process, but trusts Cunningham.

This type of court application, known as a Rowbotham application, comes up when a person has been denied legal aid but cannot afford a lawyer to represent them on a complex, serious charge.

A Rowbotham application is not supposed to be about reviewing the decision-making process at legal aid, the judge notes.

In court, prosecutor David McWhinnie argued that Murphy can’t say that she was denied a lawyer. He said Murphy’s reasons for mistrusting the lawyer picked for her are vague and subjective.

But Gower disagreed.

He said legal aid’s refusal to authorize Cunningham to act for the accused in this context can be viewed as a de facto denial of legal aid.

He pointed to the letter from the legal aid board which suggested that if Murphy were to not accept legal aid’s offer, then she was “free to hire (her) own counsel privately.”

“Again, I do not want to fall into the trap of reviewing legal aid’s decision, but I cannot help observing that, in the present circumstances, the board’s suggestion here is simply unrealistic. It does not give rise to a genuine choice on the part of the accused,” he said.

For now, Murphy’s charges have been stayed until funding for Cunningham can be worked out.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wyatt's World for Oct. 28, 2020.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 28.… Continue reading

Yukon Child Care Board chair Amy Ryder says the board could be playing a bigger role in childcare policy making if they had more financial support from the Yukon government. (Submitted)
Yukon Child Care Board asks for larger role in annual report

The board is asking for a larger budget to increase outreach and advice

Yukon’s clocks will no longer change in March and November but will remain permanently on Pacific Daylight Saving Time. (Courtesy Yukon government)
Off the clock: Yukon prepares to end seasonal time changes

Starting on Nov. 1 Yukon will be one hour ahead of Vancouver and two hours ahead of Alaska

Dawson City as scene from West Dawson. Art Webster, the vice-chair of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission resigned last month over the Yukon governments unwillingness to pause speculative staking. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Vice-chair resigns from Dawson land-use planning commission

NDP warns that not pausing mining activity is the road to a second Peel decision

The opening ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg on July 28, 2017. The 2021 Canada Summer Games have officially been rescheduled for Aug. 6 to 21, 2022, exactly one year from the date the national competition was originally set to take place in the Niagara region of Ontario. (Canada Summer Games/Flickr)
Canada Summer Games dates set for 2022 but uncertainty remains for Yukon athletes

Yukon athletes continue waiting to get back into schools

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read