Man charged after death of Brady Francis makes first court appearance

Maurice Johnson, charged with failure to stop at the scene of an accident in connection with the hit-and-run death of Brady Francis last February, appeared in court for the first time Monday morning.

Francis, of Elsipogtog First Nation, was found dead by the side of the road in Saint-Charles, about 100 kilometres north of Moncton. It’s believed the 22-year-old was waiting for a ride home on Feb. 24 when he was struck on Saint-Charles South Road.

Johnson’s preliminary inquiry in Moncton provincial court was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, but his lawyer, Gilles Lemieux, said Johnson waived his right to the hearing.

Lelmieux said this was done for “tactical reasons” he did not want to discuss.

“It was just not felt that it was necessary, that’s all,” he said. “What we did was we consented to have it sent to trial.”

Dressed in a black leather jacket and camouflage, Johnson, who was 56 at the time of his arrest in August, declined to comment on the case when asked by CBC News.

Lemieux said dates for the trial will be set in the next month or two, once the Crown files documents with the Court of  Queen’s Bench.

He expects it will take “much longer” than the two days that were set aside for a preliminary hearing.

“This matter is set to go before a judge and jury so there will probably be at least a day, maybe two just to choose a jury.” 

Family wants interpretation service

Patty Musgrave, a friend of the Perley-Francis family and an advocate for Indigenous people, is leading a fight to have simultaneous English interpretation available at the trial.

Brady Francis was 22 when he was struck and killed in February 2018 while waiting for a ride on Saint-Charles South Road. (Facebook photo)

Johnson, of Saint-Charles, has elected to be tried in French but the family of Brady Francis speaks only Mi’kmaq and English.

Musgrave is asking the Higgs government to have an interpreter at the trial so the family will be able to follow the proceedings and have access to the justice system.

Justice Minister Andrea Anderson-Mason has refused that request, saying interpretation is not offered to families of victims.

“Unfortunately, interpretation services are not provided to the gallery in any case, in any language,” she said in a letter to Musgrave. 

Members of Francis’s family were not present for the proceedings Monday.

Andrea Anderson-Mason, the minister of justice and attorney general, says all participants in the court system are entitled to interpretation services, but this does not extend to victims’ families. (Radio-Canada)

Following Francis’s death, rallies and vigils were organized across the province, as people pleaded for the driver who hit Brady to come forward and confess.

Kenneth Francis, the victim’s grandfather, has said family members have been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received throughout the #JusticeForBrady campaign.

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