New Brunswick

Second fitness hearing planned for accused shooter

Accused shooter Matthew Vincent Raymond will have another fitness hearing next month before he can stand trial for first-degree murder charges.

Matthew Raymond must be found fit by a jury before quadruple murder trial can go ahead

Matthew Raymond being led into the Fredericton courthouse. A jury will decide if he is fit to stand trial on four first-degree murder charges. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Accused shooter Matthew Vincent Raymond will have another fitness hearing next month before he can stand trial for first-degree murder charges.

A jury will be chosen by mid-February to decide if Raymond is fit to stand trial. Last fall, another jury found Raymond unfit because his mental illness prevented him from communicating with his lawyer and defending himself.

The defence lawyer and the Crown have until 4:30 p.m. Thursday to decide the number of potential jurors to be summoned, the exact dates and the duration of the hearing, Justice Fred Ferguson said Monday.

Raymond, 49, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Fredericton police constables Sara Burns and Robb Costello and two civilians, Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright.

They were killed on the morning of Aug. 10, 2018, at an apartment building on Brookside Drive on Fredericton's north side.

Fitness to stand trial addresses an accused person's current mental state and not their state of mind during an alleged crime. It is different from criminal responsibility. 

At the Fredericton courthouse Monday, Raymond appeared by video conference from the Restigouche Hospital Centre in Campbellton. He had spent 60 days there, receiving antipsychotic medication against his will, after the first jury found him unfit.

Once someone is found unfit, they can't stand trial until another jury finds them fit.

Matthew Raymond's defence lawyer Nathan Gorham, pictured here in October, says he believes his client is fit to stand trial. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

The court previously saw a report from Dr. Ralph Holly — produced after Raymond underwent treatment — that said he was fit to stand trial.

On Saturday, defence lawyer Nathan Gorham brought  Dr. Julian Gojer to assess Raymond. In court, Gorham said Gojer also believes his client is fit.

The chosen jury will have to review evidence and ultimately decide fitness.

Both sides agreed that the jury chosen to decide Raymond's fitness will be different from the jury chosen to decide his guilt on the four counts of murder, should the trial go ahead.

Last year, the court questioned 91 people to get the first jury. Six hundred were summonsed because the court was expecting to use them for the murder trial, but Raymond's deteriorating mental state meant that pool had to be used for a fitness hearing instead.

Trial by judge

In court Monday, Gorham also said he plans to apply for trial by judge alone. All murder cases are automatically tried by judge and jury, and Ferguson said murder trials done by judge alone are "rare."

However, this request and others cannot go ahead until Raymond is found fit again.

The court is hoping to have the criminal trial in May. Gorham said Raymond wants the case to be heard quickly.

"Mr. Raymond has instructed me that he wants to proceed with the trial as quickly as possible," Gorham told the judge. "He has instructed me to seek trial dates around the first or second [week] of May."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hadeel Ibrahim is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. She's been previously awarded for a series on refugee mental health and for her work at a student newspaper, where she served as Editor-in-Chief. She reports in English and Arabic. Email: hadeel.ibrahim@cbc.ca. Twitter: @HadeelBIbrahim

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