Greg Fertuck's lawyers seek to withdraw from long-delayed murder trial

·3 min read
Police began laying the groundwork for the sting on Greg Fertuck a year in advance. (Greg Fertuck/Facebook - image credit)
Police began laying the groundwork for the sting on Greg Fertuck a year in advance. (Greg Fertuck/Facebook - image credit)

Greg Fertuck's lengthy murder trial is facing another delay: his lawyers want off the case.

The catalyst for the delay is the complaints he filed against his defence lawyers earlier this year, apparently questioning their competence.

However, Fertuck didn't inform his lawyers about his complaints to the Law Society, they only learned about them near the end of August.

Now they say they can no longer represent him and are seeking to withdraw from the trial.

Fertuck is accused of shooting his estranged wife, Sheree Fertuck, in December 2015 at a gravel pit near Kenaston, Sask., where she worked.

Her remains have never been found. Police targeted Greg Fertuck in an elaborate undercover police operation known as a "Mr. Big sting."

He was arrested for murder in 2019 after telling undercover police officers that he had killed his wife and got rid of her body.

Pandemic forced early delay

Justice Richard Danyliuk is presiding over the first-degree murder trial, which began at Saskatoon's Court of King's Bench in September 2021. All of the evidence heard so far, including all evidence from the Crown, has been presented within a series of voir dires — trials within the trial proper to decide the admissibility of evidence.

It got off to a late start, beginning six months after it was supposed to because of COVID-19. The trial has also been delayed by the discovery of the alleged murder weapon and delays in lawyers' written arguments.

The arguments from the Crown and defence on the voir dires were supposed to be submitted by August's end but they haven't been.

A meeting was held Wednesday to deal with a more pressing matter.

The case management teleconference, with Danyliuk, the Crown, Fertuck and defence lawyers Morris Bodnar and Mike Nolin, was closed to the public. Danyliuk issued a written fiat afterward that explained some of what transpired.

"It came to the attention of defence counsel that in May and June of this year Mr. Fertuck had complained about them to the Law Society," he wrote, adding he had not seen the complaints himself.

Bodnar and Nolin say they were unaware of the complaints until the end of August.

Danyliuk says the Law Society's delay and Fertuck's allegations have serious repercussions for the trial.

Relationship with Fertuck 'irrevocably damaged'

"Mr. Fertuck mentioned nothing about his Law Society complaints to his lawyers as they continued to represent him in court. It is fair to say defence counsel have been blindsided by this development."

The defence lawyers advised that Fertuck has questioned their "competence and professional integrity."

"I am satisfied from the small amount of information made available to me that the allegations brought by Mr. Fertuck are, in fact, grave," Danyliuk wrote.

The lawyers suggest the allegations are so serious "that the fundamental trust underpinning the solicitor-client relationship has been irrevocably damaged such that neither lawyer can represent Mr. Fertuck any longer."

Kendall Latimer/CBC
Kendall Latimer/CBC

Their application to withdraw will be heard in open court on Oct. 24.  Danyliuk wrote that he will make sure Fertuck receives independent legal advice on the upcoming hearing and also the court process ahead.

"I am concerned about his ability to construct and file written representations on the voir dires," Danyliuk said.

"Mr. Fertuck expressed a desire to conduct the balance of his defence on his own. He also indicated he was receptive to having counsel appointed to complete this trial."

Danyliuk said the independent lawyer appointed to offer guidance to Fertuck will canvas these options with him.