By Courtesy (St. John's)
The Independent
Friday, April 27, 2007

Joe Oliver alleges police misconduct and a serious conflict of interest within legal aid in documents filed in Newfoundland Supreme Court.

Three-and-a-half months after he was arrested in the murders of Dale Worthman and Kim Lockyer, Oliver still sits in jail � practically penniless and, now, lawyer-less.

But the latter he blames on legal aid and a conflict of interest that he says could have been avoided, according to court documents obtained by The Independent.

Oliver claims he was �freaked out� by a call he received from a senior lawyer who has or did represent two people he�s been ordered to stay away from � namely Shannon Murrin and Shelly Stokes.

That lawyer, Bill Collins, also happens to be chairman of the Legal Aid Commission�s appeal board.

Oliver applied for a legal aid lawyer because he couldn�t afford one in private practice. He was appointed a lawyer from Gander, but appealed that decision on several grounds and was turned down. He wants the Supreme Court to overturn that decision and allow him to have a private lawyer paid for by the province.

�This case is difficult and has been ongoing for 13-plus years, which means a lot of material and disclosure,� Oliver, assisted pro bono by his former lawyer Bob Buckingham, states in a letter to the legal aid appeal board.

�I have a Grade 4 education and can barely read and write, so it is important all my material be close with a lawyer that can meet me at any time to discuss the file. Therefore I should have a St. John�s-based lawyer.

�The charges are serious and I could go to jail for life. I need a lawyer with a lot of courtroom experience in serious criminal trials and with jury experience.

�I do not think the lead lawyer assigned to me has enough criminal courtroom or jury experience to represent me on these charges.�

Oliver, who has a common-law wife of 20 years, an 18-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, argued that any lawyer outside St. John�s would be too far away to properly communicate with him and prepare for what would likely be one of the most sensational and high-profile trials in recent Newfoundland history.

�With respect, the lead lawyer assigned to my case has mostly practiced in the area of landlord and tenants,� he states.

Oliver also claims his rights have been �abused and manipulated� by the police, but he does not elaborate.

lawyer needed

�Therefore, I need a lawyer who I have confidence in and who will protect me from future improper police actions. I think this file will require nearly full-time work by my lead lawyer and from what I hear, legal aid lawyers have too many other cases to give mine the time it requires.�

Oliver filed the application with Supreme Court alleging conflict of interest and bias after his appeal for a St. John�s lawyer, or private lawyer paid by the province was rejected,

The application states Collins should never have heard the appeal in the first place because �he had a professional relationship with two of the people involved� in the double murder case �Murrin and Stokes.

Two days after Oliver�s arrest on Jan. 12, Murrin claimed Oliver was trying to finger him for the crime. Meanwhile, Stokes, a local psychic, told media she played a key role in leading the police to the bodies off Thorburn Road.

Neither claim has been substantiated and no other arrests have been made.

But the fact Collins represented or advised Stokes and Murrin at all is enough to create �a reasonable apprehension of bias� in the appeal process, Oliver�s application states.

Conflict denied

Collins, meanwhile, denies any conflict in the matter. In a letter to Oliver addressing the matter, the renowned defence lawyer notes he last represented Murrin 20 years ago in an unrelated matter, and �the other person consulted me.�

Contacted this week, Collins reiterated his position.

�I have over 35 years of legal experience and I believe I would know if my actions were inappropriate,� Collins tells The Independent. �And I can assure you they were not.�

Meantime, Oliver has yet to apply for bail, since he does not have a full-time lawyer to make his case for release pending trial.

His application against legal aid was called in Supreme Court April 26, but has yet to be resolved. Oliver, 37, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the August 1993 execution-style shootings of Worthman and Lockyer.

But police have always believed the killings were planned or premeditated, which is a prerequisite for first-degree murder charges.

A police spokesman said this week there is nothing else new to report in the case.

A day after Oliver�s arrest, RNC Const. Paul Davis told media there was another suspect.

�Yes, that is still the case,� he said this week. �But I cannot tell you anything else, other than the fact the investigation is still ongoing.�