With trial dates looming, accused in Edmonton Chinatown murders fires another lawyer

Bone appeared by CCTV from the Edmonton Remand Centre Thursday and spoke at length during the hearing

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Trial dates for the man charged with murdering two members of Edmonton’s Chinatown community are in jeopardy after the accused fired his latest lawyer.

Justin Francis Bone was in Edmonton Court of King’s Bench Thursday for a pretrial hearing which saw him part ways with Alexandra Seaman, one of several lawyers on the case since Bone was charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of Hung Trang and Ban Phuc Hoang.

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Bone told Justice Wayne Renke he wishes to hire defence lawyer Tom Engel, but has so far been unable to do so because Engel no longer accepts clients through legal aid. Bone hopes to pursue an application that would allow him to hire a publicly funded lawyer outside the legal aid process.

Bone has two upcoming trials: in May on home invasion charges and in October for the Chinatown killings.

Trang, 64, and Hoang, 61, were beaten to death outside their workplaces May 18, 2022. The deaths triggered public outcry, leading then provincial justice minister Tyler Shandro to order Edmonton city council to create a “public safety plan” for the inner city. They also led to new efforts to revitalize Chinatown, as well as the funding of a new policing hub in the neighbourhood.

A CBC report later revealed RCMP dropped Bone in Edmonton three days before the killings, while he was on release for a separate offence and despite a court order banning him from being in the city without supervision.

Bone appeared by CCTV from the Edmonton Remand Centre Thursday and spoke at length during the hearing.

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Trang and Hoang
Photographs of Ban Phuc Hoang, 61, and Hung Trang, 64, two slain members of Edmonton’s Chinatown community, are displayed in a shop window in Edmonton’s Chinatown on June 1, 2022. Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia

He told court he was “sorry” to part ways with Seaman, an experienced defence lawyer, but said there were issues with his legal aid counsel.

“I’ve been through three, four lawyers now I’ve been having complications with,” he said. He hoped to hire Engel because he “knows the history of me and what I’ve been going through.”

“These are very serious charges and I know with legal aid lawyers, I’ve been having issues with them,” he said. “I have legit reasons why I’ve been letting my lawyers go.”

Bone said he has been told to file a Rowbotham application, a legal procedure for people who have been denied representation through Legal Aid Alberta but cannot afford a lawyer.

Seaman said Bone may need to file a different type of application, given he has been provided counsel through legal aid.

Bone’s next court date is April 5. Renke said the court will check in on Bone’s progress with legal aid and assess whether to appoint an amicus lawyer to help Bone with any applications he needs to make. 

Prosecutor Anders Quist noted Bone’s May trial is already past the time limit established by the Supreme Court’s Jordan decision, while the October trial is “right at its Jordan deadline.”

Cases are typically thrown out under Jordan only if the delays were caused by the Crown. 

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