A jury has found Matthew Raymond not criminally responsible for the shooting deaths of four Fredericton residents two years ago.
The jury returned the verdict Friday morning after deliberating for about 25 hours over four days.
Raymond, 50, had admitted to shooting and killing Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright from his storage room window at 237 Brookside Dr., then Fredericton Const. Sara Burns and Const. Robb Costello when they responded to calls of shots fired on Aug. 10, 2018.
Raymond testified at his trial that he believed he was shooting demons, not humans, coming to kill him after he became convinced the end times had come.
Two psychiatrists testified they diagnosed him with schizophrenia, and a third diagnosed him with delusional disorder.
Family members of the victims sobbed when the verdict was read.
Justice Larry Landry cautioned people against outbursts. A relative of Burns, wearing a “#FrederictonStrong” shirt, ran out of the courtroom in tears
Wearing a navy shirt and black pants, Raymond wiped away tears and nodded.
Raymond’s mother, Shirley Raymond, also had tears.
Fredericton Police Force Chief Roger Brown issued a statement a few minutes after the verdict in which he thanked jurors for their time.
“[I] am fully aware that no one has emerged from this situation unscarred,” he said in the statement. “It is important that we respect the decision that has been passed down as we move forward.”
Jackie McLean, who was Costello’s partner, spoke to reporters while holding a black mask with a blue line stitched across it. She said this is not the verdict she was hoping for.
“Because of the not-criminally-responsible verdict, he [Raymond] will be eligible for release at some point, and every time those hearings happen, we as the victims’ families have to revisit,” she said. “We don’t ever get the opportunity to pack up our grief and put it away.”
Outside the Fredericton Convention Centre, where court was held to maintain physical distancing, Raymond’s defence lawyer, Nathan Gorham, said his client is relieved by the verdict but feels “horribly” for what happened and regrets what he’s done.
“His grief that he’s expressed with us has been palpable in a physical sense, almost completely overcome with grief,” Gorham said.
He said it “may be a long way out in the future” before Raymond is no longer considered a threat to the public and released.
McLean said Costello was an advocate for forgiveness, but she’s not sure she can channel that toward Raymond.
“I’m really struggling with forgiveness for this individual,” she said.
Case plagued by delays
The verdict came more than two years after the shooting sent shock waves through the province. The case has been plagued by delays since the beginning because of fitness-to-stand-trial issues and COVID-19 court closures.
The trial spanned more than 10 weeks and had 44 witnesses, including police officers, nurses, psychiatrists, Raymond himself and members of his family.
The jury was the first chosen in Canada since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.
The judge thanked the 11 jurors for their service and excused them for the final time.
The Crown argued that Raymond’s delusions weren’t so intense that he didn’t know what he was doing or that it was wrong. The prosecution also pointed out that Raymond didn’t shoot a couple standing by Robichaud’s body, that he modified his rifle to double the amount of ammunition it could hold, he barricaded his door and he shot the victims in the head and chest, which shows intent to kill.
Despite Raymond’s admission that he killed the four victims, the defence argued he was not criminally responsible because his schizophrenia stopped him from knowing what he was doing or that it was wrong.
What an NCR verdict means
Before the jury began deliberating, Landry told them that finding Raymond not criminally responsible does not mean he will be released.
He said Raymond will remain in jail until a hearing is held to determine his supervision and treatment. By law, the New Brunswick Review Board or a judge must hold a hearing within 45 days of the verdict.
At the hearing, the judge or board must consider the safety of the public, Raymond’s mental condition and his integration into society to decide whether he’s a significant threat to public safety. Family members of the victims will also have a chance to read victim impact statements.
Landry has set a tentative date for the hearing for Dec. 11 at 9:30 a.m.
Janet Austin, a professor of law at the University of New Brunswick, said in a serious case, it’s unlikely a killer would be detained for a short period of time. And if they’re released, the review board would have to be confident their medication and treatment were successful.
“If you look statistically, most people who are found not criminally responsible and have been released don’t reoffend,” she said.
Medications required during trial
Raymond had already been receiving mandatory anti-psychotic medication injections months before and during the trial.
He testified he only stopped believing in demons last month, but he still believes he heard a child outside his window say, “Come out and play, baby,” which he interpreted as a sign of Armageddon beginning.