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Quebec election shooting: accused might get lawyer

MONTREAL - A judge ruled Wednesday that the accused in Quebec's 2012 election night shooting should have access to a state-funded lawyer.

Justice Guy Cournoyer said the court believes having proper legal counsel with funding advanced by the province is as much in Richard Henry Bain's interest as it is in the public's.

Cournoyer said that while Bain, 63, is currently unable to pay for a lawyer, he has offered to reimburse the province in the future for his legal fees.

"In this very unusual and exceptional circumstance, the court is of the view that an order providing for state-funded counsel to Mr. Bain is both in his interest and in society's interest, in having the charges disposed of on the merits within a reasonable time," Cournoyer said.

"Time is of the essence."

Bain is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder after an attack at a Montreal club in September 2012 as 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 speech.

Bain is also facing several weapons charges as well as some relating to arson in the same incident.

A first-degree murder trial is complex, Cournoyer said.

"A jury trial is exacting even for the most accomplished lawyers," Cournoyer said. "There is no such thing as a simple jury trial when the charge is first-degree murder."

Bain had previously been ruled ineligible for legal aid, resulting in his initial lawyer recusing herself from the case.

Cournoyer said it became clear during the state-funding hearing that Bain's inability to afford legal representation was only temporary. The judge acknowledged that Bain's offer to reimburse the province in due course is unusual, but not unheard of.

The judge noted the accused's liquid assets are limited, that his brother will not lend him money and that he can't borrow.

Bain earns about $3,300 in monthly pension, but the amount would not be enough to reasonably pay a lawyer to prepare for a trial tentatively scheduled to begin in January 2015.

"No reasonable defence counsel would undertake to defend an accused in a case such as this one with so many financial uncertainties," Cournoyer said. "Any other conclusion is a figment of creative wishful thinking."

The case has been postponed until May 23 to allow for the government and Bain's lawyer to come to an agreement on funding and repayment.

Jean-Marc Tremblay, the attorney who has agreed to defend Bain, said negotiations were already underway with the government.

Tremblay doesn't believe Bain can or should defend himself. There are plenty of details, rules and nuances Bain doesn't know about, said the veteran Montreal defence lawyer.

Addressing reporters outside the courtroom, Tremblay expressed confidence Bain would be able to reimburse the public.

He dismissed any notion that taxpayers are funding the defence of an accused killer.

"The taxpayer are not paying for Mr. Bain, that's not true," Tremblay said. "The taxpayer will advance the money for a very short period of time to Mr. Bain and he'll reimburse, he'll have no choice but to reimburse, and he wants to reimburse."

Julien Bernard, a lawyer for the Quebec government, said everything will be done to ensure the state is refunded as quickly as possible,

The judge also sounded hopeful that negotiations would be fruitful. In the event they fail, the court will have to reassess the situation.

"I'm very confident you'll find reasonable terms," Cournoyer told the lawyers.

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