Hit-and-run trial halts after new witness comes forward in nearly 2-year-old case

The hit-and-run trial of Maurice Johnson came to an abrupt halt for the second day in a row Thursday after the court heard a new witness has come forward in the nearly two-year-old case.

No information about the person or the nature of their evidence has been revealed.

But the individual contacted the RCMP, the Moncton Court of Queen's Bench heard.

Johnson, 57, of Saint-Charles, is accused in the death of Brady Francis on Feb. 24, 2018.

The body of the 22-year-old from Elsipogtog First Nation was found on Saint-Charles South Road in Saint-Charles, about 100 kilometres north of Moncton.

Johnson has pleaded not guilty to failing to stop at the scene of an accident that caused a person's death.

The trial is scheduled to resume Friday morning.

Defence lawyer Gilles Lemieux was about to begin his cross-examination of the Crown's collision reconstructionist when he learned of the new witness and requested the adjournment.

It comes on the heels of the trial being adjourned Wednesday after the Crown prosecutor discovered sections of the accused videotaped statement to police, which were previously deemed inadmissible by the judge, had not been properly edited out.

Johnson's statement is now expected to be played on Monday instead.

Damage consistent with pedestrian being struck

The collision reconstructionist told the court the damage to the front of Johnson's pickup truck was consistent with a pedestrian being struck.

RCMP Cpl. Michel Lanteigne said, based on his measurements, the person would have been standing at the time of impact with the truck's grill.

The person would have then been thrown up onto the hood, said Lanteigne.

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Earlier this week, another officer testified he saw blood on Johnson's damaged truck the morning after Francis was killed. But Justice Denise LeBlanc has declared that testimony irrelevant.

Although the blood was human blood, the RCMP lab and independent testing requested by the defence found it did not match the victim's DNA profile, the courtroom heard.

Lanteigne, who has been a collision reconstructionist since 2014, was called in from his Caraquet home on the night Francis was killed and arrived at the scene after midnight.

The victim's body was still lying on the westbound side of the road, he said.

Pierre Fournier/CBC

It's a well-used stretch of road, but in good condition, the officer said. It was a dark night, but visibility was good.

Lanteigne walked the scene, searching for evidence. He said he found 14 pieces of broken plastic on the road and marked each one with a cone and orange paint. He also took photographs and measurements.

But Lanteigne was unable to determine the exact point of impact.

There was no sign of skin or hair on the road, even though Francis's body had marks on it, he said. And he didn't see any marks on the road from the bottom of Francis's white shoes.

In his opinion, the vehicle was travelling east, he said.

11 days left

The Crown expects to wrap up its case within four days, Crown prosecutor Pierre Gionet has said.

Then the defence will begin presenting its case.

The trial is scheduled to continue until Jan. 31.

Pierre Fournier/CBC

The court has heard from numerous witnesses so far, including emotional testimony from the victim's parents, who were both at the fatal scene.

Francis had called them earlier that night, looking for a drive home following a diaper party for a friend.

Jessica Perley and Dana Francis said they were flagged down by someone saying a pedestrian may have been hit, then saw their son lying face up on the side of the road and black skid marks on the pavement.

Other witnesses have included people who saw Brady Francis walking on the road and may have been among the last to see him alive.

The people who found his body also took the stand, along with first responders.