The man accused of beating a prominent gay rights activist to death outside a Halifax bar appeared in court Monday morning for a preliminary hearing.

Andre Noel Denny is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 49-year-old Raymond Taavel on April 17, 2012 outside Menz Bar, a popular gay club on Gottingen Street.

Denny occasionally waved his arms and spoke out loud during Monday's proceedings. He smiled and signalled to his family when they entered the court. His lawyer cautioned him about his behaviour.

Media are not permitted to report testimony from preliminary hearings like Monday's. Crown prosecutor Darrell Martin expects to call 20 witnesses over the next three days.

Defence lawyer Donald Murray already agreed the case should go to trial.

Police said it appears Taavel tried to break up a fight between two men after leaving the bar.

Hours before Taavel's death, Denny had been released by the East Coast Forensic Hospital on an unsupervised one-hour pass, but he didn't return.

The hearing was supposed to get underway in February, but it was adjourned after Denny's lawyer expressed concerns about his client's mental health and Denny told the court he no longer trusted his lawyer.

In court documents, Denny is described as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He is also described as being grossly psychotic with a history of aggressive impulsivity and unpredictability.