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Judge recusal issue raised in case of Bayhead man accused of murder

Ernie (Junior) Duggan, of Bayhead, who is accused of murdering his next door neighbour Susan Butlin last September, is seen leaving the provincial court in Truro during a previous hearing in early October.
Ernie (Junior) Duggan, of Bayhead, who is accused of murdering his next door neighbour Susan Butlin last September, is seen leaving the provincial court in Truro during a previous hearing in early October. - -File photo

TRURO, N.S.

Defence attorneys for a Bayhead man accused of killing his neighbour are expressing concern about the judge who is scheduled to hear the preliminary inquiry.

Ernest (Junior) Ross Duggan, 49, who is charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 17 death of 58-year-old Susan Butlin, appeared in provincial court in Truro Thursday morning via video-link, from the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Centre in Burnside where he remains in remand.

When sitting Judge Al Bégin gave notice he plans to preside over the preliminary hearing, defense attorney Dave Mahoney suggested he and co-counsel Stephanie Hillson disagree with that decision and they believe Bégin should recuse himself from the inquiry.

“Then I think we will have an issue,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney has previously expressed concern about Bégin participating in the preliminary inquiry, which is set for two weeks in September, because of the judge’s past involvement with Duggan during a peace bond application filed by Butlin last August.

Bégin has stated in a previous hearing that after reviewing the past court documents “there is nothing in those transcripts whatsoever that would give me cause for concern (regarding his continued involvement).”

A focus hearing has been set for Feb. 12 to deal with the application for recusal.

Bégin has ordered that the recusal application be made available to the court by Jan. 26, the same day Duggan is to appear in court on drinking and driving charges, dating to Aug. 22, and to which not-guilty pleas have been entered on his behalf.

Mahoney said the defense is also awaiting disclosure from the Crown regarding the forensic analysis information on the file.

“I think (the Crown) would agree that a great deal may rely on the outcome of that evidence,” Mahoney said.

Duggan is also accused of attempted murder against several RCMP members following an exchange of gunfire at the Lockerbie Memorial Cemetery in Tatamagouche on the morning following Butlin’s death.

 

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