By Kirk Starratt
A video statement from a witness is admissible as evidence, says the judge presiding over the trial of Kyle David James Fredericks of Somerset
The 23-year-old is charged with criminal negligence causing death and trafficking a substance represented or held out to be hydromorphone in Berwick March 18, 2011. The charges were laid last year in relation to the death of Joshua Graves following a house party in Berwick. Fredericks pled not guilty to the charges June 11, 2012.
Judge Alan Tufts ruled Jan. 16 that a video statement from Aaron Robicheaud, who hosted the house party, could be admitted into evidence. Tufts said he’d make a credibility assessment of all witnesses at the end of the trial, but the more difficult issue is the reliability of the statement.
“I recognize there are aspects of the statement that bring reliability into question,” Tufts said.
Tufts said the video statement was about three hours long and was, in his opinion, “an interrogation-style interview.”
There were leading questions asked by police and some police trickery, he indicated.
However, he said the statement by Robicheaud, who was not under arrest at the time, was voluntary and there was no abusive or oppressive conduct by police.
“They used police techniques to get a statement from a fellow who didn’t want to give a statement,” Tufts said.
The judge said Robicheaud seemed to be generalizing about the accused and Robicheaud himself might have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the interview. Tufts said Robicheaud is a confused, recanting witness.
Robicheaud was called by Crown Bill Ferguson to testify on Jan. 8 as part of a voir dire regarding the admissibility of the video statement. Robicheaud testified he had snorted two crushed dilaudid pills before the party, was drinking heavily and smoked marijuana at the party.
He said he didn't know Graves, but knew Fredericks. He said in the video statement he saw Fredericks with dilaudid at the party. However, Robicheaud testified he was under the influence of dilaudid at the time of the interview and now isn't sure it was the night in question he saw Fredericks with the pills.
Robicheaud said he isn't denying what he said in the video, but testified on Jan. 8 that he was confused.
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"I wasn't in a good state of mind," Robicheaud said in regard to the video statement, and indicated on the stand that it wouldn't refresh his memory from the night to watch.
After the court viewed the video as part of a voir dire on Jan. 8, Robicheaud testified that he had “more or less” given the police information about Fredericks to get the police off Robicheaud’s back. He had stated in the video Fredericks had a pill crusher and was selling dilaudid at the party and counting money.
Robicheaud said, through the entire interview, he was worried the police thought he had sold Graves the drugs.
“I was worried they were going to point fingers at me,” Robicheaud said.
Ferguson argued on Jan. 16 there is a need for the evidence on the recording. He said Robicheaud asked the judge to accept what Robicheaud was saying on the stand because he was confused over the date in question when he gave the video statement.
“The video statement is very self-explanatory,” Ferguson said. “He (Robicheaud) didn’t want to be labeled a rat.”
Defence attorney Chris Manning argued there is a question over the reliability of the statement. Manning said Robicheaud’s statement changed frequently and Robicheaud implicated Fredericks at the end.
Manning said it was raised in a brief about the voir dire evidence by Ferguson that Robicheaud had no motive to lie in the video statement. However, Manning said he would suggest Robicheaud had a great motive to lie - Robicheaud hosted the party and used drugs himself.
Manning said Robicheaud might have a motive to protect someone else and he gave evidence on the stand that what he was describing in the video was a completely different night.
“There’s lots of reason for Mr. Robicheaud to be very concerned and give a self-serving statement protecting someone else,” Manning said.
The trial has been adjourned to Jan. 30, when Tufts is expected to make a ruling on the admissibility of a video statement from Fredericks. The court viewed the video and Fredericks was called to testify as part of a voir dire Jan. 9.