The first-degree murder trial of Matthew Vincent Raymond was interrupted twice while inquiries of the jury were performed, ultimately leading to one juror being dismissed for playing sudoku in open court.
The two inquiries were just some of the unexpected hurdles the trial encountered over eight weeks of testimony.
Raymond is accused of four counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Donnie Robichaud, Bobbie Lee Wright and responding Fredericton Police officers Sara Burns and Robb Costello.
The defence has not denied that Raymond killed all four victims outside of his Fredericton apartment building on Aug. 10, 2018, but has said that he is not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.
The 11-person jury began its deliberations on Tuesday.
When a fitness to stand trial hearing began on Aug. 19, 12 jurors had been selected: seven women and five men. But over the eight weeks of testimony in the murder trial, proceedings were stopped twice to make inquiries of jurors.
The first inquiry came as a sheriff’s deputy saw Juror #2 playing “puzzle games” during the testimony of Alex Pate on Oct. 16. The same juror had been seen lying back with his eyes closed earlier in the trial, but the parties had decided to continue on without making official inquiries.
But on Oct. 15, testimony was stopped and the 12 jurors were called before the court one at a time as Justice Larry Landry asked them if they had seen anything unusual from their fellow juror.
When Juror #2 came before the court, the juror admitted to playing sudoku during testimony for about a week prior. When asked why, the juror said that there was a certain level of “tedium” as certain evidence was presented and that playing the puzzle games actually helped him pay attention.
He claimed that he was still making notes, flipping between his game and his notes when he felt the need to jot down a piece of evidence.
He said that some pieces of evidence seemed to be “belaboured” and that there appeared to be a significant amount of wasted time.
As the court continued its inquiry, other jurors said that they had noticed Juror #2 copying out sudoku puzzles from a book into his trial notebook during breaks in the jury room. Others said he had expressed frustration at the pace of proceedings, with Juror # 9 saying Juror #2 had mentioned that he had been tuning out the conspiracy theory videos of Rob Lee Truther, calling them “bullshit.”
Juror #2 was then dismissed. Landry said that while it was possible Juror #2 was performing his duties diligently, to avoid the possible appearance that someone on the jury was not, it was necessary to discharge him from the jury.
A second inquiry came in the final week of testimony. Just before the lunch break on Nov. 4, during the testimony of forensic psychiatrist Dr. Julian Gojer, Juror #9 told a sheriff’s deputy that she thought she may have been threatened by a member of one of the victim’s families.
Deputy Janet MacMillan told the court that the juror appeared shaken up, fumbling with her hands and her eyes watering.
After lunch Juror #9 was called before the court to explain what happened.
“Just before lunch when Dr. Goler was wrapping up I turned and a member of … a family member shook his head at me and glared at me,” the juror said.
“He was very upset, I think, by what the doctor was saying and when it happened I caught his eye and he caught my eye and seemed to move his hands at the same time which I interpreted as threatening.”
But the juror said after she had had some time to think about it at lunch, she believed she had misinterpreted the incident.
“I don’t think he was intentionally trying to catch my eye and make me feel threatened,” she said.
“It’s an opportunity for the family members to be mindful that their non-verbal movement can have an impact on jurors as well.”
The juror went on to say that that particular person was fairly expressive in his movements while listening to testimony. The rest of the jurors told the court they hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary and that no one had tried to make inappropriate contact with them throughout the trial.
Eventually, the trial resumed and Landry gave a warning to those sitting in the gallery to mindful of their non-verbal cues while attending the trial.