MONTREAL - A hearing on whether Quebec's accused election-night shooter can get the province to fund his defence could well determine how smoothly his criminal trial will proceed next year.
Richard Henry Bain was back in a Montreal courtroom on Wednesday and was informed that a judge has been assigned to deal with the issue of his legal representation later this month.
The potential impact of that judge's decision was evident when Bain announced to the court he planned to subpoena some 150 witnesses if he represents himself. The lawyer looking to represent him believes the defence could wrap up its case in about one week.
Bain is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder after an attack at a Montreal club in September 2012 as Premier Pauline Marois celebrated the election victory of her Parti Quebecois.
Lighting technician Denis Blanchette was fatally shot and colleague David Courage was wounded as they stood near a doorway to the downtown Metropolis nightclub where Marois was giving her victory speech.
Bain is also facing several weapons charges as well as some relating to arson stemming from the same incident.
Bain has demanded a state-funded attorney, claiming he is too poor to pay for one himself. Bain has previously been ruled ineligible for legal aid, resulting in his initial lawyer recusing herself from the case.
A hearing has been set for Feb. 25 to allow Bain's proposed lawyer, Jean-Marc Tremblay, and the Quebec government to present arguments regarding the motion, called a "Rowbotham" application. It is reserved for those who want legal aid but aren't deemed eligible.
Tremblay has said he'll take on the case if he's paid by the province. Bain is expected to testify at the February hearing.
The outcome will have an impact on his murder trial.
Justice Marc David says the earliest a trial will begin is on Jan. 5, 2015, if Bain represents himself.
David said he may delay the start if Bain can hire Tremblay to represent him. The veteran defence lawyer has told the court he wouldn't be ready for a January start date.
In either case, David served notice to the Crown to be ready to proceed.
A new Crown attorney was assigned to Bain's case Wednesday — Matthew Ferguson, a Montreal-based prosecutor. He replaces Elaine Perreault, who was named a judge last year.
"We want to fix a trial date as soon as possible, but we have to know before if he will be represented by a lawyer," said Jean-Pascal Boucher, a spokesman for the Crown, outside the courtroom.
Boucher said people often decide to represent themselves, but having legal representation makes the trial management much easier.
"A lawyer knows the rules, knows the administration of evidence, so it's easier," Boucher said. "But if he doesn't have a lawyer, it's not impossible. We'll deal with it and we'll be ready to manage the evidence in court."
While he doesn't care too much about a court date, Bain indicated he'd like to apply for bail, given that his trial date is just under a year away.
The Crown has said it would take six to eight weeks to present its case, which would include about 40 witnesses.
Andre-Anne Charette, who represented the Crown at Wednesday's hearing, conceded it's possible it may take longer if the 63-year-old Bain represents himself.
Bain will return before David on Mar. 3.