Paxton trial judge refuses to step aside
Defence counsel requested new judge for application to stay proceedings
The Calgary judge overseeing the trial of accused torturer Dustin Paxton has ruled against a defence motion that she recuse herself from a stay of proceedings hearing.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Sheilah Martin said it would be "unnecessary and inappropriate to remove myself" from the hearing.
Paxton, 31, is accused of brutally beating and sexually assaulting his roommate over an 18-month period starting in late 2008.
As the nine-week trial wound up, Paxton's defence counsel filed an application for a stay of proceedings over the allegedly late disclosure of evidence and the handling of a Crown witness.
The stay of proceedings, which means stopping the legal process in a trial, was to address the defence concerns that Paxton did not get a fair trial.
Among other things, Paxton's lawyers claim to have video evidence that police coached witnesses who testified against Paxton during the trial.
If the stay application is granted, the charges against Paxton could be suspended.
During the stay hearing, Paxton's lawyer, Jim Lutz, stepped aside and another lawyer for the defence, Michael Bates, argued there would be a reasonable apprehension of bias if Martin stayed on as judge because she may have to rule on the credibility of trial lawyers — Lutz and Crown prosecutor Joe Mercier — if they're called as witnesses.
But Martin ruled that she is familiar with the evidence and has a "unique understanding of what happened during the trial."
She also agreed with the Crown lawyer who said it was in the public interest to have the same judge preside over the stay hearing "for the sake of continuity."
Charges against Paxton include forcible confinement, sexual assault and aggravated assault of his one-time business partner, who cannot be named because of a publication ban.
Law student testifies
A University of Calgary law student was the first person in the witness box Wednesday afternoon. She testified she saw someone was directing and communicating with a witness during the trial.
Jillian Williamson said she saw the man nod to a key Crown witness on several occasions during his testimony. Williamson said the witness would then answer "yes" to questions from Paxton's lawyer.
But under cross-examination, Williamson admitted the man's actions were consistent with someone who was either checking their phone or texting.
Williamson also told the court that her Canadian Bar Association mentor two years ago was Lutz, Paxton's lawyer.
The stay of proceedings hearing will resume Thursday.
With files from the CBC's Bryan Labby