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Mistrial in murder case

Stephanie McDonald
Northern News Services
Published Monday, October 8, 2007

IQALUIT - Judge Robert Kilpatrick declared a mistrial Oct. 3 in the second-degree murder case against Patrick Anablak, who is accused of killing his common-law partner, Sylvia Lyall.

The court was to hear the defence's case last Wednesday, but when Anablak's lawyer, Sue Cooper, stood to speak, she announced that Anablak had expressed a loss of confidence in her.

Cooper said she received the news during a phone call from Anablak the night before, and asked the court to withdraw her as his lawyer.

The unexpected twist in the court case, which began on Sept. 5, brought immediate tears from Lyall's friends and family, who had gathered in the courtroom. It has already taken three years for the case to come before the Nunavut Court of Justice.

RCMP found Lyall dead in her Iqaluit apartment on June 22, 2004. The same day, Anablak was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

"It appears to be a genuine fallout," Kilpatrick said of the situation between Anablak and his lawyer. He said that he didn't see the firing of Cooper as a tactical move by Anablak to delay the case.

In making his decision to declare a mistrial, Kilpatrick said he had to weigh competing interests at stake. The first was to ensure that the trial be fair and Anablak have representation.

Kilpatrick stressed to Anablak that he was "facing an extremely serious charge," one that, if convicted, could result in a life sentence. The other issue was to bring closure to Lyall's family and to Anablak as well.

"I profess profound regret to the community and to you as well," Kilpatrick said to Anablak. "It's not in anyone's best interest," to have continual delays, he said.

As an RCMP officer led Anablak out of the courtroom, two women shouted after him, "loser, asshole, jerk." The women consoled each other outside of the courtroom after the case was adjourned.

Anablak. who is supposed to contact Legal Aid, will return to court on Nov. 6, at which time it is hoped a new trial date can be set. The Crown will have to represent its case during the new trial.