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Fitness hearing set for August for accused in N.B. multiple murder case


May 5, 2020
By The Canadian Press

FREDERICTON — A tentative date of Aug. 17 has been set for a fitness hearing for a Fredericton man accused of four counts of first-degree murder.

Matthew Raymond is accused of killing civilians Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright, and Fredericton Police constables Robb Costello and Sara Burns, on Aug. 10, 2018.

Last October, a jury found Raymond unfit to stand trial, but court was told Monday that a tribunal held on April 15 ordered that he now receive involuntary medication.

The fitness hearing could last up to five days, and a finding of fitness is required before a trial on the murder charges can begin, possibly this fall.

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Fitness means that an accused understands the charges against them and the consequences of the case, and is capable of instructing a lawyer.

Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Fred Ferguson said Monday the ability to hold the hearing and trial as scheduled will depend on whatever restrictions are placed on the courts at the time in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said none of the courts will open until June 1, and none will be ready for a jury trial at that time.

Ferguson said occupational health and safety staff looked at all the courts in the province and determined that even the largest court in Saint John could only accommodate nine people — not enough to allow a jury trial.

“Just doing the quick math here, there are four prosecutors, two defence lawyers, one accused, one judge, one assistant, a clerk and at least a couple of sheriffs. So, we’re way beyond that number,” he said Monday.

He said other venues would have to be considered.

The original fitness hearing for Raymond was held at the Grant-Harvey Centre, a large hockey rink in Fredericton, because of the hundreds of people who were called for the potential jury pool.

The case returns to court June 1 for the next case management conference to decide how to proceed.

– Kevin Bissett

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2020.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2020