Murder trial for accused child killer Trent Butt delayed due to lawyer switch
Lawyer Mike King confirms he was fired; Bob Buckingham says he has been asked to represent Butt
Trent Butt, a Carbonear man accused of killing his five-year-old daughter, has fired his lawyers one week before his trial was set to begin — and has asked lawyer Bob Buckingham to represent him instead.
Mike King and Bob Simmonds will no longer represent Butt, who is accused of first-degree murder in the April 2016 death of Quinn Butt at his home.
He is also charged with arson in connection to a fire set at the same time at his home.
He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
During a court proceeding on Thursday afternoon, Buckingham told a judge he was present at Butt's request. Buckingham said that while he is prepared to take the case, a legal aid certificate would need to be transferred to him.
"This afternoon, you do not have a lawyer," Justice Donald Burrage said to Butt.
According to Buckingham, Butt called him and said he had a breakdown in his relationship with King and Simmonds.
Because he doesn't have a lawyer at this time, the case has been set over to April 2, when a new trial date will be decided.
A high-profile and emotional case, the jury selection was slated to begin on Monday at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John's and the process was expected to take several days.
On Thursday, the judge said that jury panel which had been summoned to appear Monday will be discharged — and the potential jurors no longer have to appear at the Arts and Culture Centre.
More than 1,000 jury summons had been issued in an attempt to find an impartial and unbiased jury to hear the case.
"The court is prepared to set a trial date as soon as defence counsel can be reasonably available," the judge said Thursday, noting it could be as early as May, June or July.
More than 1,000 jury summons were issued in an attempt to find an impartial and unbiased jury to hear the case.
The judge noted if the trial went ahead Monday, it would only be appealed.
"Really no choice in the matter. If you don't have counsel and can't represent yourself ... it leaves me with no choice other than to adjourn the trial. To do otherwise would result in a trial which is less than fair," Burrage said to Butt.
Bob Buckingham tells the court he is here at Trent Butt’s request. “That’s correct,” Butt says when judge asks if he still wants to fire King/Simmonds. Both lawyers step away from the bench. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcnl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbcnl</a> <a href="https://t.co/fFB4RmSNnb">pic.twitter.com/fFB4RmSNnb</a>—@arianakelland
After it was announced there would be a delay, Crown attorney Lloyd Strickland said, "We are in an impossible position, of course."
Andrea Gosse, Quinn's mother, was in court for Thursday's proceedings, along with supporters. Several hugged each other and cried.
Butt stabbed while in jail
Justin Jordan is accused of stabbing Butt at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in June 2017.
Butt was not seriously injured in the alleged incident.
When he was being led into the courtroom on June 15, 2017, Jordan yelled, "Put your hands in the air for baby Quinn."
A few months before that, in February 2017, the house where Butt is accused of killing Quinn was demolished — a move paid for by CIBC, the bank that carried the mortgage on the property.
Emotions run high
Butt's previous court appearances have been emotionally charged, with supporters of Quinn and her mom filling courtooms, with some rallying outside, wearing pink and purple — the girl's favourite colours.
Gosse, who was estranged from Trent Butt at the time of the alleged murder, has talked about leaving an abusive relationship a year before Quinn's death. She said the pair lived with Quinn's babysitter before moving to Paradise.
"It was supposed to be a fresh start for us," she told Here & Now's Debbie Cooper in April, 2017.
Since her death, money raised in Quinn's name has helped pay for a playground at a Paradise school and for renovated play rooms and recreational space at The Iris Kirby House, a shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
With files from Ariana Kelland, Glen Payette and Here & Now