New Brunswick

Accused Fredericton shooter to admit to killing police officers, civilians in 2018

Matthew Vincent Raymond, the man accused of shooting and killing four people in New Brunswick two years ago, has been found fit to stand trial. He is charged with four counts of first degree murder in the shooting deaths of two police constables and two civilians in August of 2018.

Jury finds Raymond fit to stand trial; he plans to only contest criminal responsibility

Matthew Raymond is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two police officers and two civilians in New Brunswick in 2018. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The man accused of shooting and killing four people in New Brunswick two years ago has been found fit to stand trial.

A jury came to the verdict after deliberating for one hour Thursday.

Matthew Vincent Raymond is charged with four counts of first degree murder in the shooting deaths of Fredericton police Consts. Sara Burns and Robb Costello, and civilians Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright. He was arrested after the shooting on Fredericton's Brookside Drive on Aug. 10, 2018. 

Defence lawyer Nathan Gorham said because Raymond is fit, he will be officially admitting to the act of shooting these four people.

"Mr. Raymond acknowledges that he was the shooter, that he caused the death of the four victims," Gorham said outside the Fredericton Convention Centre Thursday. "The only contested issue, as we explained in court, is whether or not he was not criminally responsible at the time of the shooting."

Gorham said this admission is to "streamline" the trial and only focus on criminal responsibility. Whether this admission will actually reduce the amount evidence presented to the jury will be up to the judge, he said.

Raymond's criminal trial is scheduled for Sept. 15. The same jury who decided fitness will decide whether he's guilty or not guilty. Gorham said his client is keeping the same jury to avoid delays and another jury selection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last fall, Raymond was found unfit "on account of mental disorder," and underwent mandatory antipsychotic treatment. He needed to be found fit before his prosecution can continue.

Drafting a 'keep-fit' order

Justice Larry Landry decided Thursday he's not sending Raymond back to the Restigouche Hospital Centre. Landry said he has "reasonable grounds" that Raymond could lose fitness if he stops taking medications, so Raymond will stay in Saint John but will have to continue treatment with antipsychotic medication.

Gorham asked if Raymond could be kept at the Saint John's Centracare instead of the jail. Landry said he will decide this later, once the final "keep-fit" order is drafted.

Defence lawyer Nathan Gorham and law partner Breana Vandebeek standing outside the Fredericton Convention Centre, where Court of Queen's Bench has been operating to maintain physical distancing. Gorham said Raymond acknowledges he was the shooter. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The case has been delayed because of Raymond's fitness, as well as COVID-19 court cancellations. This jury was the first jury in Canada to be selected during the pandemic. 

In any fitness hearing, jurors must reach a verdict based on a balance of probabilities, meaning on Thursday, they decided it was more likely than not that Raymond is fit to stand trial.

Fitness to stand trial deals with the accused's current state of mind — whether a mental illness is preventing them from communicating with their lawyer and understanding the role of the justice system. It does not deal with the accused's state of mind during an alleged crime, so it's distinct from criminal responsibility.

Fitness hearing testimony

Testimony during the fitness hearing took about two hours.

The first witness was Dr. Ralph Holly, a psychiatrist at the Restigouche Hospital Centre who has been treating Raymond since the fall.

Holly testified he diagnosed Raymond with schizophrenia that was causing persecutory delusions — making him think that court and jail staff were out to harm or kill him. It was also causing disorganized speech that was preventing Raymond from communicating properly with his lawyer. 

The psychiatrist said when he first started treating Raymond, he was refusing to take medication and was denying he had any kind of mental illness. He stopped taking his medication orally, Holly testified, and he was having sleeping problems. Raymond went from sleeping for eight hours to two hours each night.

"Nobody can fake sleeping problems except if you have some drugs," Holly said. Raymond was in a restricted unit, with a 24-hour nurse and no way to go outside. 

A jury of 12 people took one hour to deliberate and decide that Raymond is fit to stand trial. The same jury will decide whether he is guilty or not after his trial, which is scheduled for Sept. 15. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

He was getting withdrawn, refused to take showers and was getting aggressive, Holly said.

That's when Holly said he testified in front of the New Brunswick Review Board — a provincial tribunal that decides treatment for people found unfit — and recommended mandatory medication.

Once the review board prescribed mandatory medication, the hospital began injecting Raymond with antipsychotic medication instead of administering them orally, Holly said.

The injections were long acting, lasting about 28 days. Once this treatment started, Holly said Raymond began returning to fitness. 

We're able to discuss evidence which is something we'd never been able to do before.- Alex Pate, member of defence team

He still was not admitting to his mental illness, but was accepting the doctor's diagnosis.

"There's no delusions. No delusion against the court system, no delusions against his lawyer," Holly said. "The second thing is his thought was more organized ... He's able to answer questions directly.

"He was rational, logical and would go straight to the fact."

The second witness was Alex Pate, a member of Raymond's defence team. Pate described how Raymond's behaviour was erratic last summer, and how it was different now.

Pate said he had hours-long meetings with Raymond last summer where he was not able to get any questions through to him.

"I didn't say much during the meeting," Pate said. "He would jump from subject to subject."

Pate said Raymond would only speak about how he believed the jail staff were against him, that they were out to harm him, and that his former lawyer Alison Menard was working with the judge against him. 

"He said [Menard] was a spy or a mole," Pate said. "He would engage the guards in confrontations ... they would be screaming back and forth with one another."

Pate said this summer, since mandatory medication began, Raymond is "completely different."

"We're able to discuss defence and strategy," he said. "We're able to discuss evidence, which is something we'd never been able to do before."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hadeel Ibrahim is a CBC reporter based in Saint John. She can be reached at hadeel.ibrahim@cbc.ca

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