Trying trial
Lee cautioned to stop discussing his reasons for entering not guilty pleas

NNSL (Jul 08/98) - Keeping a lid on the defendant proved a trying task during the first day of the Wing Lee trial in Yellowknife.

During reading of the charges, NWT Supreme Court Justice John Vertes cautioned Lee several times to refrain from discussing his reasons for entering not guilty pleas.

"You will have a chance to tell me your side of the story," Vertes assured Lee. "You will have a chance to tell me what you say is true. You will have a chance to question witnesses. Otherwise I don't want you to say things from the counsel table."

Justice Vertes had to repeat the caution several more times during the first day, as Lee challenged witness testimony and discussed what was said with the Cantonese interpreter hired for the trial.

Lawyer Andrew Mahar advised the judge he "anticipates being something of a spokesman for Mr. Lee." Mahar later explained he is serving only as what is known as a friend of the court, and that his client is technically representing himself.

Mahar also reminded Lee that any questions he had for witnesses would have to wait until he had finished asking his questions.

Lee's friendly but insistent need to communicate his view of the trial has not been confined to the courtroom.

Mahar noted his client had written both lawyers and the judge explaining his side of the story.

Vertes told Lee he will not be reading the letter anytime soon.

The defendant told the judge he sent the letter to him because he felt it unfair to deprive him of the truth, since he had supplied it to both lawyers.

Lee added that another letter he had written to both lawyers should be arriving on Friday.