Accused serial rapist Richard Mantha fired his lawyers on Tuesday, seven days into his sexual assault trial in Calgary.
The trial was adjourned and Mantha will return to court on March 1 to provide the judge with an update on whether he's hired a new lawyer. It is not clear if the trial will continue or if it will be rebooked to start from the beginning.
Mantha, 59, faces 20 charges involving seven women. His trial got underway on Jan. 19 and was set to run until Feb. 9.
On Tuesday afternoon, following a lunch break, defence lawyer Kim Arial told the judge that Mantha was "discharging" her services as well as those of co-counsel André Ouellette.
'Disappointing,' says judge
Justice Judith Shriar called the situation a "disappointing development."
Mantha's move comes after powerful testimony from four women, who testified he drugged and sexually assaulted them. A fifth woman was scheduled to testify Wednesday.
Arial and Ouellette vigorously cross-examined each complainant.
"I don't think it's fair to me to sit here and put my life and my future in the hands of people who don't seem to care," said Mantha.
Prosecutor Dominique Mathurin argued the trial should proceed with Mantha representing himself
"I have witnesses, vulnerable witnesses ready to tell their story," she said in French.
But Mantha argued he should be given time to find new representation.
"I've read some of the Charter of Rights and I would like 30 days minimum to be able to obtain legal assistance," Mantha said.
The judge agreed to Mantha's application for an adjournment.
Mantha's charges include sexual assault with a gun, sexual assault with a knife, kidnapping, forcible confinement and administering noxious substances.
The charges are connected to allegations he drugged and raped vulnerable women who, at the time, struggled with addiction and/or were involved in Calgary's sex trade.
Mantha requested to be tried in French. Everything besides witness testimony is taking place in French.
All of the witnesses testified in English and he did not once use the services of his court-provided French translator.
In explaining his decision to fire his lawyers, Mantha went back and forth between English and French.
Before court adjourned for the day, Mantha indicated he is reconsidering whether he will continue in French depending on the lawyer he finds.