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Woman accused of murder in Kelowna needs new lawyer again

Need for new defence lawyers causes more delays in Kelowna murder trial
Kelowna Courthouse. (file)

WARNING: This story contains graphic details that some readers may find upsetting.

A woman who is in custody with charges of second-degree murder and interference with human remains for the death of a friend and employer will require new counsel, for the fourth time.

On June 19, Gabriella Sears, a transgender woman who was arrested under their legal name Dereck Sears in 2021, appeared in Kelowna courts as her defence counsel filed an application.

Her counsel filed an application to withdraw from the case, making them the third set of lawyers to represent Sears in the trial. 

The murder trial has been fraught with delays as Sears unexpectedly fired her defence lawyers mid-trial in December 2023.

In response to the unusual decision, Justice Carol Ross ordered that Sears undergo a month-long psychiatric assessment. 

After it was determined that Sears was fit to stand trial, defence lawyer Mark Swartz was assigned to the case. Shortly after taking over the case, a management hearing was held and Swartz told the court that he would no longer be representing Sears due to conflict.

Defence counsel Frances Mahon,was then appointed to represent Sears but has since also withdrawn.

The court granted Mahon's application and new counsel will be appointed by the court to represent Sears. 

As a result of the application being granted, the upcoming trial dates that were set for July and August have been cancelled.

Section 672.24 of the Criminal Code states that if the court has reasonable grounds to believe an accused, who is not represented by counsel, is "unfit to stand trial," it can order that the defendant be represented by a court-appointed lawyer.

Sears was arrested on June 17, 2021, after the body of Darren Middleton was found at a home on Sycamore Road in Kelowna’s Rutland neighbourhood.

Throughout the court proceedings, the crime scene has been described as “horrifying,” as Middleton’s body had been beaten and his genitals mutilated with a knife, according to forensic evidence.

The next court appearance is scheduled for July 9, for a case management conference, to schedule trial dates and to organize a fitness assessment.




Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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