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Court to decide whether one jury or two needed in Fredericton shooting case

FREDERICTON — A hearing will begin Aug. 17 to determine if a Fredericton man facing four counts of first-degree murder is fit to stand trial, but a judge still needs to decide whether the case will require one jury or two.
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FREDERICTON — A hearing will begin Aug. 17 to determine if a Fredericton man facing four counts of first-degree murder is fit to stand trial, but a judge still needs to decide whether the case will require one jury or two.

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.

Defence lawyer Nathan Gorham told the court Monday he wants the same jury for the fitness hearing and the trial, with a delay of just a few days between the two.

Gorham has repeatedly warned that fitness "waxes and wanes," and if Raymond is found fit, the trial should proceed soon after.

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

Crown Prosecutor Claude Hache said he wants the trial to begin September 28 with a separate jury, allowing time to prepare the Crown's case and arrange witnesses.

He also said witnesses who have to come from out-of-province will have to self-isolate for 14 days as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

Justice Fred Ferguson says he'll decide quickly, because the courts need time to issue summons to a potentially large jury pool if there were to be just one jury.

He said a second jury can only be called once there is a determination of fitness, and it takes weeks to send out the summons to potential jurors.

In court Monday, Ferguson raised concerns about the impact the pandemic could have on people serving on a jury and the ability to maintain a full jury until the end of the trial.

He said it could be hard to get jurors willing to sit for weeks if Fredericton had an outbreak of COVID-19 like the one experienced in Campbellton in the past week.

The pandemic has already had a big impact on the courts. Monday's hearing was held in a makeshift court in a large meeting room at the Fredericton Convention Centre, in order to allow for physical distancing.

The room allowed the judge and lawyers to be spaced far apart at the front of the room, while reporters and sheriff deputies used a handful of chairs spread out at the back of the room.

Ferguson said work is still underway in a much larger convention space on the second floor to accommodate the larger number of people required to attend a jury trial.

He said the trials will proceed no matter what level of COVID recovery is in place across the province.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press




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