Hearing to begin to determine if accused in Fredericton shootings fit for trial

FREDERICTON — Jury selection begins Monday at a hockey rink in Fredericton to determine if Matthew Raymond — accused of killing four people in a shooting spree in August 2018 — is fit to stand trial.

Earlier this month, Justice Fred Ferguson of the Court of Queen’s Bench ruled the threshold to question fitness of the accused had been met.

Fitness means that an accused understands the charges against him and can instruct a lawyer on how he wishes to be defended.

Raymond is charged with the first-degree murders of Fredericton police constables Sara Burns and Robb Costello and civilians Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright.

Raymond had already undergone an assessment that found him fit to stand trial, but Ferguson said he ordered another assessment “as a result of hearing utterances and reading materials that have been filed with this court over time.”

Ferguson told the court that fitness to stand trial “is an ongoing obligation of the court to determine, and from the beginning of proceedings to the end of the proceedings, every accused person must be fit to stand trial.”

The exact reasons that prompted the assessment order and other details of the pretrial hearings remain under a publication ban.

The arena was chosen for jury selection to accommodate the large number of people who were sent notices as prospective jurors.

New jury selection rules that came into force on Sept. 19 won’t apply to the fitness hearing for Raymond.

In a 99-page decision, released last week, Justice Ferguson said the jury selection will be based on rules in place before Bill C-75 came into effect.

The new legislation removes the use of peremptory challenges — which allow Crown and defence counsel to exclude a potential juror without providing a reason. It also gives the judge more powers in dealing with the jury that’s been chosen.

A pretrial hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday at the Grant-Harvey Centre, at the same time potential jurors have been told to show up to begin the registration process.

The exact nature of the pretrial session has not been disclosed.

Raymond is alleged to have fired from his apartment window with a long gun, killing the two civilians as they loaded a car for a trip, and the two police officers as they responded to the scene.

Costello, 45, was a 20-year police veteran with four children, while Burns, 43, had been an officer for two years and was married with three children.

Robichaud, 42, had three children and had recently entered into a relationship with 32-year-old Wright when they were killed.

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