Only ten days before the start of his jury trial, Cory Fenn (“Fenn”), accused of murdering a woman and two children, fires his lawyer and opts to represent himself in a judge alone trial.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin on September 13, 2021 and now a judge alone trial will proceed on September 20, 2021. Fenn confirmed that he would represent himself and the Crown prosecutor consented to Fenn’s re-election to proceed with a judge alone trial despite Superior Court Judge Howard Leibovich’s warning to Fenn regarding what he will be facing in court. Judge Leibovich advised:
You’re facing three counts of murder. Murder is the most serious offence we have. If you’re convicted, you may spend the rest of your life in jail.
Notwithstanding Fenn’s decision to fire his counsel, Mary Cremer, Justice Leibovich insisted that Cremer remain involved in the trial and appointed her as amicus curiae (a friend of the court). Cremer will remain involved in the trial and will act on behalf of the court to safeguard that Fenn receives a fair trial.
Fenn is charged with second degree murder in the deaths of Krassimira Pejcinovski (“Pejcinovski”) and her children, Roy and Venallia. Following a manhunt along Highway 401, Fenn was arrested in Oshawa on the day of the murders and has remained in custody.
Fenn had been in a relationship with Pejcinovski prior to her death. Autopsies of the victims revealed that two individuals were stabbed to death and one had died of asphyxiation.
On March 14, 2018, police were called to a home in Ajax after receiving a call from Pejcinovski’s colleague who reported that she had gone to her friend’s home to check on her as she had failed to show up to work. A man answered the door to the home and turned the colleague away. When police arrived, they found the dead bodies of Pejcinovski and her son. At the time, Venallia was suffering from critical injuries and was rushed to hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries.
An accused who appears in court without a criminal defence lawyer is referred to as “Self-Represented”.
Although it may be tempting to represent yourself in a criminal case given the financial burden of court fees and lawyer fees, it is ill-advised to do so given the risk to your freedom, reputation and finances.
It is instead recommended that individuals who are facing criminal charges hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer who is familiar with the law, the Crown prosecutors and the courts. A self-represented individual with limited knowledge of criminal law in Canada and with an emotional connection to the case at hand is not the best case scenario when facing criminal charges.
Before choosing to represent yourself in a criminal matter, consider the following:
- Whether you have enough knowledge of the law and the court procedures: Unlike legal dramas on tv that make it look easy, criminal defence lawyers in Ontario have spent many years studying and learning the law and the court procedures in order to skillfully represent their clients.
- Whether you are aware of the paperwork and the rules of the court: All legal cases are governed by many rules with respect to the process and submission of documents involved in the criminal case. Experienced criminal defence lawyers are aware of the requirements and will ensure that all necessary paperwork is requested and submitted as per the rules.
- Judges won’t make exceptions for your lack of legal knowledge: Although some judges may grant some leeway to self-represented individuals who are not familiar with the court proceedings, rules of evidence and the law, most will not. Judges and court staff will not provide any legal or strategic advice. Remember that the Crown prosecutor will be extremely familiar with all of the rules and procedures and likely with the presiding judge as well.
- You may make an incriminating statement: As an individual lacking the specialized knowledge of the law and experience in court, the self-represented party may say something in court that can hurt his/her case.
- Your emotions may cloud your ability to represent yourself: Self-represented defendants are often nervous and become defensive under pressure. Instead of making well reasoned arguments, he/she may resort to making emotional arguments that will reduce the effectiveness of the defence.
RETAINING THE RIGHT CRIMINAL DEFENCE LAWYER WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Being accused of a crime in Canada is a very serious matter. The outcome of the steps that you take during the criminal justice process can affect your future, whether it be your freedom, your ability to get a job, travel outside of Canada or your reputation.
The Canadian criminal justice system is difficult to navigate as a self-represented individual with no familiarity, education or experience . When facing criminal charges, it is important to have an experienced and professional advocate by your side. Experienced criminal defence lawyers are able to navigate the criminal justice system, evaluate your charges, gather evidence and counsel you on the best course of action.
If your criminal case proceeds to trial, the help of a criminal defence lawyer and strong legal team is essential to dispute the evidence, challenge witnesses and navigate the justice system.
At Affleck & Barrison LLP, we endeavour to provide our clients with exceptional legal services and offer a free initial consultation. We are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding hiring a criminal defence lawyer. Our skilled team has extensive experience defending a wide range of criminal charges. Please contact our office online or at 905-404-1947 to schedule a free consultation. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience. Our experienced lawyers are available to handle your defence with diligence and expertise.