Jurors begin deliberations in Fredericton mass murder trial

·3 min read

FREDERICTON — The jury has begun its deliberations at the mass murder trial of Matthew Raymond, a case that is testing the defence of not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

Raymond, 50, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder as a result of a shooting in Fredericton on Aug. 10, 2018, in which four people were killed, including two city police officers.

The agreed facts in the case include that Raymond was the shooter and that he is mentally ill. But Crown prosecutors have told the jury they believe the shootings were planned, deliberate and Raymond knew he was shooting at human beings -- not demons as he claimed.

Raymond has pleaded not guilty. His defence team has argued he was not criminally responsible for the killings because of a mental disorder that made him believe the end times had arrived on the morning of the shootings and he was under attack by demons and devils.

Justice Larry Landry of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench delivered a lengthy charge on Tuesday, telling the 11-member jury they have to decide whether the Crown has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Raymond understood what he was doing on the day of the shootings, or whether he is not criminally responsible, as the defence has argued.

"The Crown's position is Matthew Raymond's delusions were not intense enough to prevent him from having the intent to murder," Landry said, summarizing the prosecution position.

Landry said the defence carries the burden of proof when it comes to a verdict of not criminally responsible, on “a balance of probabilities.” The judge noted that several witnesses at the trial described Raymond in earlier times as quiet, docile and loath to hurt anything, even insects.

"Good character by itself is not a defence for a charge," Landry said, adding it’s up to the jury to decide on the weight and value of the evidence.

Proceedings were delayed late on Tuesday afternoon after a juror raised concerns about a person in the public gallery possibly taking a photo of the jury with a cell phone. The public was cleared from the courtroom and jurors were questioned about the allegation.

Ultimately, defence and Crown lawyers agreed to continue with the trial, and police are investigating the allegation.

The trial has been plagued by delays. Originally, it was expected to take three to four weeks. It now has lasted over nine weeks with a total of 44 witnesses presenting evidence. There are 11 members on the jury after one juror was dismissed earlier in the trial.

Landry said killing police officers on duty automatically carries a first-degree murder charge, if proven. Fredericton police constables Robb Costello and Sara Burns were in uniform and carrying out their duties when they arrived at the Fredericton apartment complex on the morning of the shootings to investigate what was happening. 

Also killed were local residents Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright. They were packing their car for a trip when Raymond started shooting from his apartment in the complex.

Raymond, who testified in his own defence, told the jury he only saw demons in the parking lot that day.

Landry said that in addition to a possible verdict of first-degree murder for all, some or none of the four counts, the jury also has the option of second-degree murder or manslaughter, as well as a finding of not criminally responsible.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2020.

Chris Morris, The Canadian Press