Francis case closed
Crown says no further charges being considered

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

FORT MCPHERSON (Oct 15/99) - Stanley James Itsi walked out of court in Fort McPherson last week a free man after being acquitted of manslaughter.

Itsi had been charged following the February 1998 death of Clifford Francis at a house party in the community, and spent 11 months in jail awaiting trial. That trial opened Oct. 4 and lasted a week, with territorial Supreme Court Justice John Vertes rendering his judgment on the following Saturday.

In dismissing the charge Vertes questioned the credibility of the testimony of a witness who had admitted to being intoxicated at the time of Francis' death, as were both the accused and the victim. Vertes described the testimony of the sole witness, who said the accused had been left alone with the victim, to be unreliable and self-serving, as he had been a co-accused at one time during the police investigation.

Finally, Vertes said that even though the accused had the victim's blood on his pants and boot, there was a lot of blood at the scene and the Crown had failed to prove Itsi had struck the fatal blow. Forensic pathologist Dr. Graeme Dowling had testified Francis died of a type of hemorrhage usually associated with a fight but which could have been caused by a fall.

"Defense counsel John Bayley said that because no one had actually seen Francis die, the Crown was faced with presenting a circumstantial case.

"My job was to show that there was the opportunity for someone besides the accused to strike the blow that killed the poor fellow," he said. "The doctor gave evidence that Francis took at least five or six blows to the head...but even telling which was the fatal blow was impossible -- and there was no direct evidence of the blows being struck by the accused, or any other person."

Crown counsel Mark Scrivens acknowledged the difficulty of proving guilt in such circumstances.

"Justice Vertes said he suspected that somebody knew what had happened (when Francis died) but that he didn't hear it in the evidence," he said. "It was implied in his comments that sometimes alcohol can contribute to these things happening and can lead to people not being able to remember events accurately."

Scrivens said the Crown is not currently considering any further prosecutions related to the incident. RCMP Sergeant Bill Eubank said that with Itsi's acquittal and with another individual having already served his sentence for assault, the case of the fatal party is closed.