Four days into a trial expected to last six weeks, Nanaimo man Robert Iverson has stayed silent, staring out the window and refusing to speak or answer questions.
Iverson was charged with first-degree murder in 2010 in connection with the death of 53-year-old Cheryl Sim, whose body was found stuffed in a shopping cart in a bushy area behind the Howard Johnson hotel June 29 of that year.
Crown prosecutor Catherine Hagen alleges a sexual assault led to the murder and is expected to call more than 30 witnesses during the trial. There is no jury.
While Iverson has no defence lawyer and is representing himself, lawyer Stephen Taylor said he has been appointed on Iverson's behalf to keep things as fair as possible - he worries Iverson is "thwarting" the trial.
"It's his right to defend himself, however the manner in which he's doing that is rather unsatisfactory," Taylor said outside the courtroom this week. "Since it's first-degree murder, the court decided to appoint an amicus to make sure the process is fair."
Taylor said the Crown is being forced to go through an extraordinary number of extra steps as a precaution.
In one instance, a tape was played before the court, and Hagen asked Iverson if he agreed to skip over approximately 20 minutes of the audio because she said it was irrelevant.
But Iverson said nothing, so the tape was played in its entirety.
"Fifteen minutes of noise wouldn't normally be played," Taylor said.
"You're concerned when someone appears not to be helping themselves when they're in trouble."
At the Nanaimo courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, Iverson had a long, bushy beard and wore a black hooded sweatshirt.
He turned around to face the court gallery several times, but remained quiet.
Justice Robert Punnett encouraged Iverson to find a lawyer and seek legal counsel, asking him directly if he would do so, but Iverson kept silent, staring blankly out the window.
Sims's sisters Susan Strehlau and Kathy Sims have been present at the trial. Strehlau expressed frustration at how slowly things have moved along but said she has had plenty of support from the community, including local social workers and police victim services.
Iverson is known in Nanaimo's homeless community, as was Sims, although investigators have described her as "on the edge" of homelessness.
Taylor said low-income people representing themselves in court is becoming "more and more common, and there is an increasing number of people who can't afford legal representation."
The trial continues today.
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