Crown seeks to remove defence lawyer in N.S. murder trial

·2 min read

The Crown has thrown a curve into efforts to retry a Halifax-area man on a charge of second-degree murder.

Randy Riley is one of two men accused of killing Donald Chad Smith outside an apartment building in north-end Dartmouth in October, 2010.

Smith was killed by a single shotgun blast to the chest. He had been lured to the area to deliver a pizza for the restaurant where he had just started working.

Nathan Johnson was charged along with Riley in Smith's murder. Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

Conviction quashed

Riley was convicted of second-degree murder in a separate trial. But the Supreme Court of Canada quashed that conviction last month and ordered a new trial.

On Thursday, the process for starting that second trial was already underway when Crown prosecutor Peter Craig told a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice that the Crown wants Riley's lawyer removed from the case.

Halifax defence lawyer Trevor McGuigan represented Riley at his first trial and was preparing to represent him at the second.

In a highly unusual move, Craig said McGuigan should not be allowed to continue on this case because of a potential conflict of interest.

Hearing set for later this month

When contacted by CBC News, Craig would not elaborate. A hearing has been set for later this month when the Crown will make the case for McGuigan's removal.

McGuigan wants to press ahead with a bail hearing for Riley, pointing out that Riley has spent 7½ years behind bars so far.

Craig responded that Riley has already had two bail hearings and was denied both times. McGuigan said the Supreme Court ruling makes those earlier bail decisions irrelevant.

Once the issues of McGuigan's status and the bail hearing are resolved, Riley's case will join a long list of matters that are scheduled to be heard by a judge and jury.

All such trials in the Halifax area were suspended because of COVID-19 and they will not resume until courtrooms in compliance with public health rules are ready for operation. That won't be until March, 2021.