N.B. man who changed his mind about pleading guilty to murder is denied leave to appeal

·3 min read

A New Brunswick man who changed his mind about pleading guilty to murder has lost his bid to appeal his sentence before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The court denied an application for leave to appeal filed by Johnny Albert, who pleaded guilty last March to second-degree murder in the death of his father, then tried to withdraw his admission of guilt at sentencing a month later.

It's the second time courts have thwarted Albert's attempt to appeal his sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years for the killing of his father, Gordon Albert, in Baker Brook, near Edmundston, on Aug. 26, 2016.

Last April, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal rejected Albert's appeal to have his sentence overturned.

According to the New Brunswick court's decision, Albert reported to the Edmundston Police Force that he had killed his father. Police later discovered the elder Albert's body outside a cottage on Richard Road and confirmed he died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Albert, who was 22 when he killed his father, pleaded guilty on March 20, 2019, to the murder charge.

When he returned to court for sentencing the next month, however, Albert applied to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming his lawyers had pressured him to plead guilty.

In these circumstances, we cannot conclude it was unreasonable for the judge to have refused the withdrawal of the plea. - Court of Appeal of New Brunswick

The sentencing judge dismissed Albert's motion to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that Albert was properly informed of the ramifications of his plea, according to the Appeal Court decision.

Albert initially tried to argue his plea was not voluntarily made, then argued the judge erred in his decision by not finding he was pressured by his lawyers to plead guilty, according to the Appeal Court decision

The Appeal Court judges said the sentencing judge made no error in handling Albert's case.

"The law does not allow us to intervene unless we find, in the record, an obvious error that impacted the result," the court decision said. "We find no such error."

In their decision, the Appeal Court judges noted that Albert was represented by three lawyers, who informed the judge they had spent many hours with him explaining the consequences of his decision to plead guilty to second-degree murder.

"In these circumstances, we cannot conclude it was unreasonable for the judge to have refused the withdrawal of the plea."

The decision also said Albert was twice offered a lawyer during the appeal process, which he refused.

Albert provided the court with several written submissions, which contained philosophical arguments against incarceration generally, and complained about the lack of dental and physical care he was receiving while in prison.

"Notwithstanding the rambling portions of his written and oral submissions, Mr. Albert raised the arguments he wanted us to consider regarding the principles governing the withdrawal of his guilty plea and their application to his case," the decision states.

"We were initially concerned about how Mr. Albert's mental state might affect his ability to argue his appeal; however, those concerns were alleviated during the hearing as Mr. Albert managed to properly put forth his case."