FREDERICTON -- The judge in the case of Matthew Raymond, who is accused of shooting four people in Fredericton two years ago, has been replaced.

Court of Queen's Bench Judge Fred Ferguson was prepared to conduct a fitness hearing for Raymond, accused of killing Fredericton Police constables Robb Costello and Sara Burns as well as civilians Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright, on Aug. 10, 2018.

Instead, Chief Justice Tracey DeWare presided at a pre-trial conference Friday and said Ferguson will be replaced by Justice Larry Landry.

No reason was given, but defence lawyer Nathan Gorham had applied for Ferguson to recuse himself due to the judge's alleged bias against Raymond.

Gorham's application stated that since July 26, 2019, "the defence attempted various applications and initiatives to ensure that Mr. Raymond receives a fair and reasonably expeditious trial in light of his mental disorder. The trial judge's conduct during these phases of the proceeding has been unfair and supports an inference of bias."

DeWare said that application is now moot.

A jury will be chosen for a fitness hearing Aug. 17, and if Raymond is found mentally fit, a trial will begin Sept. 28.

To be considered fit to stand trial means an accused understands the charges against them, the consequences of the case, and is capable of instructing their lawyer.

DeWare said about 450 people will receive summons for jury duty, adding a prescreening process beginning Aug. 11 should reduce that number to about 150 potential jurors.

Gorham said outside the court Friday his client "has been anxious for the last 10 months that we have the trial as quickly as possible. We are thankful that we are on the home stretch here and hopefully will be getting to trial soon."

Gorham said the defence is prepared to make a number of admissions in an effort to shorten the length of trial.

"This is just an issue of Mr. Raymond's state of mind," Gorham said. "We're not going to spend resources and days and days talking about issues that don't really matter because they obviously are true.

"For example, Mr. Raymond was the shooter. We all know that. The issue is what was his mental disorder and what impact did that mental disorder have."

Gorham said his biggest concern is being able to safely complete a trial during the pandemic. The case is being held in a large meeting room at the Fredericton Convention Centre to allow for physical distancing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2020.