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Man accused in Edmonton Chinatown killings without lawyer just months before trial

Justin Bone (Source: Facebook) Justin Bone (Source: Facebook)

The man accused of killing two men in Chinatown two years ago is just a few months away from the start of his trial, but still doesn't have a lawyer.

Justin Bone is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Ban Phuc Hoang, 61, and Hung Trang, 64.

On May 18, 2022, the two men were beaten to death in two separate, violent, unprovoked attacks while working at businesses in Chinatown.

A senseless act of violence that outraged many in the city and led to initiatives to combat crime and revitalize the area.

Bone filed what is called a Fisher application, which would allow him to hire private counsel at a higher rate than legal aid offers.

After firing several legal aid lawyers he wants to hire defense lawyer Tom Engel. But first Bone must convince the judge why Engel is the only lawyer that can ensure he gets a fair trial.

"It’s nothing to do with money, it’s nothing to do with our relationship, it’s everything to do with his skill," he said.

Dressed in a suit and armed with a large pile of folders containing documents, he represented himself from the prisoner's box. He explained to the judge he didn't feel like he had everything he needed to properly argue the application.

"Do you want more time?" asked Justice Avril Inglis.

"I would ask for an adjournment just to finish my writing," he replied.

He prepared an affidavit for the hearing but said after reading the Crown's arguments felt he needed to add more evidence.

Bone appeared frustrated on several occasions, not knowing proper legal terminology or how to express himself.

"I'm not a very good speaker," he said.

"You're doing fine by the way," Inglis reassured.

Inglis was patient, trying to keep Bone focused as she tried to determine what more he needed to proceed with the hearing.

At one point, Bone began to tell the judge about his time in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre.

"I'm having a very hard time mentally," he said, adding "Things are just getting worse for me."

He claims to have been assaulted and not able to access the mental health care he needs, even telling Inglis he tried to end his life earlier this year.

"I don’t want to be alive. I’m over there everyday not wanting to wake up," he said.

"Oh, Mr. Bone, I'm so sorry to hear that," Inglis said.

"Your well-being is important to me," she added.

He became emotional as he spoke about losing his family and children. He then brought up what he called a lack of support before the murders happened.

"I was only out for two weeks, then I got thrown out on the street by the RCMP," he said.

He said he called 211, crisis lines and his probation officer.

Bone said he also reached out to his probation officer to ask for an emergency hotel.

"Hope Mission was all they said they had," he said.

"The only person that helped me out was a dealer and it's sad. I'm where I'm at because of it," said Bone.

"This is your third time in front of me, I’m going to continue to try to help you," Inglis told him.

She made an order to get court transcripts and endorsements to Bone so he can prepare for the application hearing. The court will also assist him connect with previous counsel to potentially access records.

They will be back in court for a "check-in" next Friday.

Inglis pointed out completing the Fisher application is vital in order to proceed with Bone's jury trial as scheduled this fall.

"You don’t want to postpone that trial cause it’s just going to add to your time in remand," Inglis told him.