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Matthew Raymond defence lawyer to ask trial judge to recuse himself Friday

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Justice Fred Ferguson has made a decision regarding how many juries will be needed to trial Matthew Vincent Raymond later this year. Silas Brown has more – Jun 22, 2020

The lawyer of Matthew Vincent Raymond will on Friday ask the judge hearing the murder case to recuse himself due to alleged bias against his client.

In an application filed two weeks ago, defence lawyer Nathan Gorham alleges “demonstrated bias” on the part of Justice Fred Ferguson against Raymond due to his client’s mental health.

Read more: Court to decide if one jury or two needed in murder trial of Matthew Raymond

According to Gorham, Ferguson’s “conduct” has shifted since Raymond applied for a judge-alone trial and “supports and inference of bias.”

Raymond stands accused of four counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Bobbi-Lee Wright, Donnie Robichaud and responding Fredericton Police officers Sara Burns and Robb Costello in August 2018.

Raymond’s mental state has been under intense scrutiny during the legal proceedings so far. He was found unfit to stand trial by a jury in October 2019 and has been held under an involuntary treatment order ever since.

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Fitness to stand trial has nothing to do with an accused’s mental state at the time of an alleged offence, but rather deals with the accused’s current mental well-being. In order to be considered fit, an accused must understand the nature and object of the proceedings and be able to organize a defence.

A second fitness hearing is scheduled for Aug. 17 and, if found fit, Raymond will stand trial beginning on Sept. 28.

According to Gorham’s application, Ferguson’s alleged bias appears to be related to Raymond’s mental health. Gorham writes that Ferguson has displayed “injudicious comportment” toward the defence in response to efforts related to Raymond’s mental disorder.

In the application, Gorham makes reference to the challenges posed by Raymond’s mental health that can make him “rigid in his thinking” and have at times led to issues between client and lawyer.

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Read more: New Brunswick denies request for judge-alone hearing for Matthew Raymond

He also writes that the defence has made multiple attempts since last summer to propose suggestions to ensure Raymond “receives a fair and reasonably expeditious trial in light of his mental disorder” but that these have been met with opposition by Ferguson.

“The trial judge positioned himself as an adversary of the defence. He often presented arguments to counter defence applications, even before the defence filed the applications and before he heard from the prosecution,” he said.

“Other times he collected or created information to put against the defence position.”

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According to Gorham, all these factors demonstrate a bias against Raymond because of his mental disorder, one that may be subconscious.

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“Other times, he implied that the clarity of Mr. Raymond’s communication skills while addressing the court was a matter that tended to prove that Mr. Raymond did not have a mental disorder,” Gorham writes in the application.

“This revealed stereotype-based thinking concerning mental disorders.”

Read more: Judge reserves decision on jurisdiction in Fredericton shooting case

Gorham says that Raymond’s fair trial interest has yet to be impacted, but is asking that Ferguson recuse himself with enough time to get a new trial judge in place to allow the fitness hearing and subsequent trial to take place on schedule.

“The interference of actual bias from pre-trial proceeding will cause a reasonable appearance of bias at trial, regardless of whether the trial judge actually adjudicates the issue at trial impartially,” Gorham said.

All of these allegations have yet to be proven in court. Supporting evidence was not attached to the application but will be heard in court on Friday and will include audio recordings of previous appearances.

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