Defense asks to withdraw from Fertuck trial following bar complaint

Fertuck’s lawyers told the court they learned in late August that Fertuck had filed charges against them in May and June, without telling them.

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A year ago to the day, Gregory Mitchell Fertuck’s first degree murder trial began in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon.

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It continues – riddled with delays – and the saga continues.

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At a closed-door case management hearing on Wednesday, Fertuck’s defense attorneys asked to step down from the case mid-trial after learning that Fertuck had complained about them at the Law Society of Saskatchewan in May and June, without telling them.

“It is fair to say that defense attorneys were blindsided by this development,” Judge Richard Danyliuk wrote in an executive order issued after the hearing.

Mike Nolin and Morris Bodnar only learned of the complaints at the end of August. Bodnar has represented Fertuck since he was charged in 2019 with the shooting death of his estranged wife, Sheree, who disappeared from a gravel pit near Kenaston in 2015 and was never found. Nolin arrived on board in May 2020.

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In an interview Thursday, Nolin said they don’t know why it took so long to receive the complaint, but it appears the Law Society didn’t know they were in the middle of a first-degree murder trial.

A formal request for withdrawal will be made in open court on October 24. Nolin said he basically told Danyliuk “you’ll have to put me in jail for contempt before I do anything further for this man.”

According to fiat, Nolin and Bodnar said the complaints “call into question the competence and professional integrity of defense attorneys.”

Nolin declined to reveal the specific allegations because they are asking for an indefinite extension to respond, but said it eroded his ability to represent Fertuck.

“Based on what a former client says in a complaint, it makes you adverse in terms of interests. I can’t have opposing interests with a client and then defend them at the same time,” Nolin explained.

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Danyliuk acknowledged that the allegations were so serious that “the fundamental trust that underpins the attorney-client relationship has been irrevocably damaged such that no attorney can represent Fertuck any longer.”

“I should have been released on bail a long time ago,” Fertuck said during his last public appearance in July, adding that he spent three years in pretrial detention “for nothing”.

He also alleged that Nolin did not ask “the right questions” to a ballistics expert on the stand.

The judge-only trial is amid several voir dires to determine the admissibility of evidence, including an undercover operation that led to his indictment.

Danyliuk had set a decision date on the voir dire for January 12, 2023, after the defense requested more time to receive and review trial transcripts before submitting written arguments. The pleadings were to take place at the end of August and the beginning of September.

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Danyliuk noted that this new development will likely negate his ability to make a decision in January 2023.

Nolin said it was possible a new attorney could be hired to represent Fertuck mid-trial, without resulting in a mistrial. Fertuck indicated he was ready to defend himself. Danyliuk asked an independent lawyer to help Fertuck make representations on October 24.

Either way, Nolin said the complex legal issues and massive amount of evidence in the case would likely delay the trial much longer.

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