2 jurors in quadruple murder trial brought to tears, 1 discharged for playing Sudoku in court

·4 min read

Since it began more than nine weeks ago, the Matthew Raymond trial has seen three jury inquiries, two of which were called after jurors felt uncomfortable because of perceived actions of members of the public.

The jury of 11 has deliberated for more than eight hours since getting their instructions from the judge on Tuesday. They will decide whether Matthew Raymond was criminally responsible and guilty of the shooting deaths of Donnie Robichaud, Bobbie Lee Wright, and Fredericton constables Sara Burns and Robb Costello.

Raymond has admitted to shooting them on Aug. 10, 2018, but pleaded not guilty on account of mental disorder. He testified he believed he was shooting demons, not humans, after becoming convinced the end times had come.

The case has been plagued by delays since the beginning, when Raymond's fitness to stand trial became an issue. COVID-19 court closures also pushed the trial back.

But even after the trial started, testimony had to be paused three times as Justice Larry Landry of the Court of Queen's Bench brought the jurors in one by one and asked them about specific incidents.

Message for the gallery

On Oct. 27, one of the jurors was tearful when she told a sheriff a man in the gallery made eye contact with her and shook his head.

She told Landry the man may have just been emotional and didn't mean to make her uncomfortable. She said she didn't mean for the inquiry to be called and that this would not impact her ability to impartial.

Landry asked all the jurors the same question, if they could still be impartial. They all said yes.

The next day Landry reminded people in the gallery they should not communicate with the jurors either verbally or nonverbally.

Despite this, the trial saw another inquiry on Tuesday. A different juror was in tears when she said she thought she saw a phone flash and was worried someone had taken a photo of the jury panel. She said the same woman also stared at the jury often.

When asked who it was, she pointed to where Melissa Robichaud had been sitting. Robichaud, the estranged wife of Donnie Robichaud, has attended the trial almost every day since it started in September.

Landry again brought in the jurors and asked them whether they felt intimidated. Most said no, but one juror explained the trial has been stressful.

"I'm still able to sit, but I will acknowledge, though, that there's a lot of cumulative stress that's apparent," the juror said.

On Tuesday night, Melissa Robichaud received a phone call from police asking to meet. She met the two officers at a north side Tim Hortons and was told someone inside the courtroom thought she had taken photos of the jury. Robichaud gave her phone to the officers, who found no photos of the jury. Robichaud said she never took one.

"It was hurtful," she told CBC News, her voice shaking. "It was very hurtful."

Eric Woolliscroft/CBC
Eric Woolliscroft/CBC

She said police were satisfied and at first told her she was not allowed back to court.

"It was like a slap in the face," she said.

By Wednesday afternoon she told CBC she is allowed back in.

Elizabeth Fraser/CBC
Elizabeth Fraser/CBC

Robichaud said she did look at the jurors during the trial to see if she could read their faces.

"Of course, I did," she said. "They're going to decide the outcome."

But she said she's always been respectful inside the courtroom.

Dismissed for Sudoku

On the fourth week of trial a sheriff saw juror two playing the puzzle game Sudoku in court. Some jurors said they noticed him copying the puzzle grids onto a piece of paper in the morning so he could bring it into court. There were also concerns he was sleeping in court, as he sometimes reclined in his seat and closed his eyes.

When he was brought in and questioned, the juror said he was listening, and he was just closing his eyes "sometimes in frustration."

"I was not sleeping," he told the judge. "There seems to be an awful lot of dead time or time that is inefficiently used that I find personally tedious."

Around that time, the court was watching videos by YouTube conspiracy theorist Rob Lee, and going through electronic evidence taken from Raymond's computer. One juror said juror two called some of the videos "bullshit."

Landry said the perception that he wasn't listening is enough reason to discharge him.

"Even though it may be that [the juror] was paying attention and could be a very good juror for all this case, I am of the opinion that because of this, because of the fact that he was playing those games, that is in itself sufficient for me to exercise my discretion and to discharge him from the jury," Landry said.

The juror was discharged and the trial continued with 11 jurors.