When Michel DesNeiges woke up last Friday, the thought was already in his head: At some point that day, he would probably represent accused gunman Justin Bourque in court.
Mr. DesNeiges, who often does duty counsel work for people who do not yet have a lawyer, had followed the 30-hour manhunt for Mr. Bourque since Wednesday night, locked in his third-floor north Moncton apartment that overlooks the very woods police searched.
When Mr. Bourque was arrested and the lockdown was lifted on Friday, Mr. DesNeiges reported to Moncton’s courthouse for duty counsel work knowing Mr. Bourque would likely be there to face charges.
By 5 p.m., the charges rolled in: three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of three Codiac RCMP officers, and two charges for the attempted murder of two others. Mr. DesNeiges is one of many Monctonians to become entangled in the aftermath of last week’s violence. He is also one of only a handful of people to have spoken with Mr. Bourque since his arrest.
“I had a job to do,” Mr. DesNeiges told The Globe and Mail. “To make sure that, for any accused in any situation, that their basic rights are respected.”
In Moncton, the New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission occasionally hires private lawyers as duty counsellors to advise individuals who appear in court without counsel. Mr. DesNeiges does this several times a week, including last Friday.
“I had a good sense in the morning that I would be probably be duty counsel dealing with this matter,” Mr. DesNeiges said.
By the time the docket cleared at 2 p.m., he knew he would represent Mr. Bourque. He was told it would be between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
That, he said, probably meant police were still interrogating Mr. Bourque more than 12 hours after his arrest early Friday – and that it could continue for hours more.
Mr. Bourque arrived at the Moncton courts at about 4:30 p.m., at which point Mr. DesNeiges spoke with the Crown’s two lawyers, Cameron Gunn and P.J. Veniot, about the charges they planned to lay.
The Crown prosecutors are from Fredericton and Bathurst, N.B., respectively. Using Moncton prosecutors, Mr. DesNeiges said, would have been unlikely, as they could have predetermined biases in a case involving the deaths of local police officers.
Mr. DesNeiges spoke with the suspect for 10 minutes.
Moments later, Mr. DesNeiges entered the courtroom. He has been in court for tense murder cases, he said, but the flood of media and armed officers built a tension “that I have never seen before” in Moncton.
Lawyers and sheriffs were on high alert all afternoon, trading quick looks, Mr. DesNeiges said, as if asking each other “are you guys ready for this?”
In court, neither he nor the Crown requested that Mr. Bourque undergo a psychiatric assessment.
The Crown lawyers declined to comment to The Globe and Mail. Mr. DesNeiges said he held back because the Crown did not request an assessment, he did not feel he knew the suspect well enough after just a few minutes of conversation, and he would not represent him in the future.
Constables Fabrice Gévaudan, Dave Ross and Douglas Larche of the Codiac RCMP died in last week’s shootings. Mr. Bourque returns to court on July 3.
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