Moncton murder case goes straight to court, skipping preliminary hearing
The man charged with the murder of Max Boudreau in Moncton will be tried head-on without a hearing.
Justin Barrow, 42, of Moncton, is charged with first-degree murder because he claims he killed the 24-year-old on November 15, 2022.
Barrow was due to appear in Moncton Provincial Court on Monday to set dates for a preliminary hearing, but the appearance was cancelled.
Crown prosecutor Annie St-Jacques filed a direct indictment last week, a rarely used move that means Barrow’s case will go to trial without a prior hearing.
The hearing is being held for a judge to hear the Crown’s evidence to determine if it is sufficient to go to court. Barrow’s hearing was scheduled to last three weeks.
Barrow’s attorney, Martin Goguen, did not comment on Tuesday. St-Jacques did not respond to a request for comment.
No reason made public
A direct indictment must be approved by either the provincial attorney general or his deputy.
Court documents signed by St-Jacques and New Brunswick Assistant Attorney General Michael Comeau gave no reason for the move. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said the province would not comment on the indictment decision.
While the defense may elect to forego a preliminary hearing, a direct prosecution overrides the election.
Gilles Lemieux, who is not involved in Barrow’s case, said in an interview that the hearings could be an important step in understanding the Crown’s case.
“If it doesn’t happen in a first-degree murder trial, it certainly cripples the defense,” Lemieux said.
“It is crucial to be able to assess the behavior and the evidence. It’s just as important as the evidence itself, especially when you’re going before a jury. They really want to know who you’re talking to before you tape them.”
Defense attorneys sometimes use testimony from such hearings later in the process if a person’s testimony changes or is uncooperative.
The prosecutor’s Operational Manual says direct indictment is appropriate when the indictment meets the normal standard of prosecution and when “the public interest requires that the matter be brought directly to trial.”
The handbook lists 15 reasons that could trigger the public interest threshold.
These include delays that could violate a person’s right to a reasonable trial, a complex case involving numerous witnesses and lengthy testimonies, and avoiding duplication of proceedings.
A 2016 Supreme Court ruling in Canada sets an 18-month period between the filing of charges and the actual or expected end of a trial in a provincial court. In the Court of King’s Bench, where a murder trial would take place, the upper limit is 30 months.
There were signs of concern about delays when Barrow last appeared in provincial court on February 27.
Judge Brigitte Volpé said a three-week preliminary hearing would require a judge from outside Moncton. But she said the chief justice had to give his approval. Volpé said lawyers should have looked into the matter before the February performance.
“Mr. Barrow is in custody so we need a date sooner than usual,” Volpé said, later saying it would need to be scheduled within two months.
Boudreau disappeared after leaving a strip club in Dieppe on November 15 and was reported missing on November 17. His body was found on November 22 in a wooded area in Irishtown, north of Moncton.
Barrow was arrested the same day Boudreau’s remains were found. He was charged on November 23 and has been in detention ever since.
While the preliminary hearing will not take place because of the direct indictment, the documents filed suggest a three-week voir dire is expected before a month-long trial. A voir dire is held to determine whether evidence will be admitted in court.
Barrow is now scheduled to appear in court on April 3.