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

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

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

The now empty lot at 410 Cook Street in Whitehorse on January 19. As developers move forward with plans for a housing development that would feature 16 micro-units, they are asking city council for a zoning change that would reduce the number of required parking spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Parking problems predicted

Zoning amendment would create more on-street parking issues, residents say

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18.	(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

Most Read