By Kirk Starratt - “Doing nothing is not an option now,” Judge Alan Tufts said while setting preliminary inquiry dates for a former Kings County man charged with first-degree murder.
Public defender Brian Vardigans spoke on behalf of the accused, Albert Rex Baird, 46, during his March 13 appearance in Kentville provincial court.
The Dartmouth man was arrested on May 30, 2013 and charged with the murder of Rhonda Joyce Louise Wilson in August 2002. Baird has been trying since his arrest to secure legal representation.
Vardigans said he was of the understanding that defence attorney Wayne Bacchus would be present for the proceedings on March 13, but an issue with giving him the retainer is unresolved. However, Vardigans said Bacchus would be available in late October or November.
Vardigans said Baird is concern is that if dates are set now and Bacchus doesn’t become his retained lawyer, there will be more difficulty getting dates established for the preliminary inquiry. Dates for earlier this year had been set but were abandoned after Baird was unable to find a lawyer.
Vardigans suggested that having dates set now might be beneficial to Baird in finding representation. Nova Scotia Legal Aid is still working on the matter. Baird indicated to Vardigans he was agreeable to having the dates set.
“Quite remarkable” situation
Tufts described the situation as “quite remarkable” and said this is the first time this has ever happened in Nova Scotia.
Vardigans agreed, saying, this is “the first time in my 25 years that I’ve seen this,” and adding, “if there is anyone who is not concerned, they should be.”
Tufts said the matter is about having a fair trial in a democratic country. Baird has a right to legal representation and a timely trial. The public has a right to see such a serious allegation dealt with in a timely manner.
Tufts said he could appoint a lawyer for Baird as a provincial court trial judge but his understanding is that he doesn’t have the authority to do so as the preliminary inquiry judge. He told Baird that he might want to seek legal advice and pursue other remedies with a superior court.
Crown attorney Robert Morrison said they would like to move ahead and have dates set, but wouldn’t want to see them “fall apart again” over an issue with Baird’s legal counsel.
Tufts said that, at some point, his only course of action to fulfill his obligation is to set preliminary inquiry dates that are convenient to the Crown and leave the door open for Baird to find counsel.
Morrison asked for the weeks of Oct. 20 and Oct. 27, 2014 to be set aside for the preliminary inquiry. Morrison also requested a date for a status review. This will take place on April 14. The accused has the right to be present but Baird indicated that he likely wouldn’t be.
Tufts said it would be up to Bacchus or someone else to apply to the court to have the dates of the preliminary inquiry changed if they’re not suitable.
- Kirk Starratt