North

No lawyer appointed yet for Kevin Mantla murder appeal

A Gameti man serving time for murder and attempted murder says he has no hope of appealing his conviction himself because he can barely read and has no short- or long-term memory due to drug and alcohol abuse.

Gameti man convicted of murder and attempted murder says he can not appeal without a lawyer

Kevin Mantla is arguing he should have been convicted of manslaughter, not second-degree murder. The 40-year-old Gameti man is serving a sentence of life with no parole for 20 years. (Facebook)

A Gameti man serving time for murder and attempted murder says he has no hope of appealing his conviction himself because he can barely read and has no short- or long-term memory due to drug and alcohol abuse.

Wearing handcuffs and a cloth mask, which he later took off, Kevin Mantla appeared by video from the maximum security Edmonton Institution during a brief court appearance on Wednesday. The hearing was to focus on whether the court should appoint a lawyer to represent the 40-year-old in appealing his second-degree murder and attempted-murder convictions.

But it was adjourned because the court can only appoint lawyers for defendants when they have exhausted all other ways of getting one. Until recently, both the prosecutor and defence believed that had been done. But they found out the Legal Aid Commission had yet to consider an appeal Mantla filed after they refused to give him a lawyer for his conviction appeal.

The commission is expected to make that decision within the next few weeks.

Though the commission refused to give him a lawyer to help appeal his conviction, it did appoint Toronto lawyer Robin Parker to represent Mantla in appealing his sentence of life with no parole for 20 years.

Mantla was sentenced a year and a half ago, after being convicted of stabbing Elvis Lafferty to death and attempting to murder Lafferty's girlfriend, who was Mantla's ex-girlfriend. The night-time attack happened in the girlfriend's Yellowknife apartment.

Appealing for manslaughter conviction instead of murder

Mantla argued for a court-appointed lawyer in a May 1 letter addressed to N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood. In the submission, Mantla said he got help from another inmate named John Lee.

It's unclear whether that is John Lee Jr., a convicted murderer serving a life sentence in Alberta who has filed dozens of lawsuits from prison and been declared a vexatious litigant by the courts.

"Mr. Lee is not a lawyer and has refused to represent me or do any other legal help as he claims this has been a nightmare for him," Mantla said in an earlier submission to the court.

Mantla said he "has almost no short- or long-term recollection other than that which he had before the harm caused by extensive drug and alcohol damage … and no knowledge or ability to understand or comprehend law or even what is being said to him.

"My ability to read English is terrible," he said.

In the letter, Mantla says he wants to appeal his murder conviction "based on the grounds that he is Aboriginal and he confessed to the murder stating clearly to the police that, 'I didn't mean to do it.'"

Mantla says he should have been convicted of manslaughter, not murder, and that Justice Louise Charbonneau did not give enough weight to the systemic disadvantages he has faced as an Indigenous person, also known as Gladue factors, when she handed down her verdict.

The next court appearance in Mantla's appeal is scheduled for June 1.