Maurice Johnson, who stood trial on a charge related to the hit-and-run death of Brady Francis, will return to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Moncton today to hear the judge render a verdict.
Only Johnson and the lawyers will be allowed in court when Justice Denise LeBlanc delivers her decision at 9:30 a.m. COVID-19 restrictions prevent anyone from Johnson or Francis’s family from attending.
Johnson, 57, of Saint-Charles has pleaded not guilty to failing to stop at the scene of an accident that caused a person’s death.
Francis was 22 years old when he was struck and killed on Feb. 24, 2018, around 9:40 p.m. He was waiting for a drive from his parents on Saint-Charles South Road in Saint-Charles.
The court heard from 35 witnesses during the 11-day trial that ended Feb. 28.
No proof beyond a reasonable doubt, says defence
In his final arguments, defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux argued the Crown failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
He told the court there are too many unanswered questions to find Johnson guilty.
Lemieux alleged the RCMP ignored evidence that didn’t fit their theory and used tactics to try to pressure his client into a confession. Johnson maintained he believed he had hit a deer that night.
A collision reconstructionist testified that if a pedestrian was struck on the passenger side, as the damage to Johnson’s truck shows, the body would have been thrown forward or to the right by the impact — toward the ditch in this case.
Francis’s body was found on the west-bound lane, opposite where the damage suggested it should be.
Lemieux argued the position of Francis’s body was not consistent with the damage to Johnson’s truck.
The court was told the blood found on the truck did not match Francis’s DNA and that the glass fragments found in the deceased’s clothing could have come from multiple sources, including his cellphone, the truck or the road.
Johnson did not testify in his defence. His only account came from a four-hour videotaped interview with the RCMP three weeks after Brandy Francis was killed.
The Crown’s case
The Crown’s case was built on circumstantial evidence.
Prosecutor Pierre Gionet argued it had to be Johnson’s truck that struck and killed Francis.
Gionet used security video from the Saint-Charles convenience store and gas bar to show the four vehicles that drove past Francis during the timeframe when he was hit.
The first two drivers testified they saw Francis walking along the road, the third vehicle was a light-coloured truck which Gionet contends was Johnson’s, and the fourth driver testified they saw a person on the ground.
No one else mistook Francis for a deer, said Gionet.
Experts testified the damage found on Johnson’s truck was consistent with a collision with a pedestrian.
A forensic identification specialist told the court that, in his opinion, the black pieces of plastic found at the scene came from Johnson’s truck.
No translation provided for Francis family
The Francis family followed the proceedings in a separate courtroom during the trial to allow a volunteer from the community to provide translation for them during the trial.
Although the Francis family may not attend Tuesday’s decision in person, arrangements have been made for them to join by telephone conference, if they choose.
The decision will be delivered in French, but written copies of the decision will be available in both French and English after the verdict is delivered orally.
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