BATTLEFORD, Sask. — A Saskatchewan jury has begun deliberating the fate of a farmer charged in the shooting death of a young Indigenous man.
Gerald Stanley, 56, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie from the Red Pheasant First Nation in August 2016.
“You have now heard all of the evidence in this case. There will be no more evidence,” said Saskatchewan Chief Justice Martel Popescul in his charge to the jury in Battleford, Sask., on Thursday afternoon.
“In this trial, I am the judge of the law. You are the judges of the facts … It is important you accept the law without question.”
Court has heard that Boushie was shot in the head with a handgun while he was sitting in the driver’s seat of an SUV that had been driven onto Stanley’s farm near Biggar, Sask.
Defence lawyer Scott Spencer said in his closing arguments Thursday that the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stanley fired at Boushie intentionally if the murder charge is to stick.
Spencer is arguing that Boushie’s death was a tragic accident.
“There’s no evidence he (Stanley) pulled the trigger,” Spencer told jurors.
The trial has already heard that the farmer fired warning shots into the air and then reached into the SUV for the ignition keys when he says his gun accidentally went off.
“A lot of people would have assaulted the driver and gotten physical,” Spencer said. “He reaches in (to the car) … and turns the vehicle off. The gun goes off at the same time.
“Bottom line is Gerry was in a nightmare situation. He didn’t have any intention of hurting anyone and certainly no intention of shooting anyone. The question is, if you were in Gerry’s boots, would you be expected to do anything different?”
The lawyer said the shooting was a freak accident.
“It’s a tragedy, but it’s not criminal,” he told the jury. “Some people aren’t going to be happy. You have to do what is right based on the evidence you heard in this courtroom. You must acquit.”
Crown prosecutor Bill Burge disputed that Stanley believed the firearm was empty and that the gun could have had a misfire, or hang fire.
“It’s a very rare circumstance,” said Burge, who pointed to the evidence of gun experts. “He’s told you something that is demonstrably not true because there was another round in that clip.”
Burge argued Stanley handled the firearm carelessly.
“You can’t believe what Gerald Stanley said. The only inference is that it was pulled. Was it pulled intentionally? Did it go off accidentally?” Burge said.
“In either event ladies and gentlemen, if it was pulled intentionally, I am suggesting that’s murder.”
The jury deliberated about three hours before making a request to the court.
“It’s more of a request than a question,” said Popescul.
“We want to re-hear Sheldon’s testimony from when he came out of the house. We also would like to hear Gerald’s testimony from where he fired his first shot and on.”
The defence and prosecution expressed concern that without hearing the entire interview it might be possible to take things out of context.
“Collectively we have decided it might be too difficult to isolate the exact portions that you want to hear and it may be best for you to hear all of the portions over again,” said Popescul.
He said the safest and fairest thing was to play the interviews again Friday morning.
The trial has heard that the SUV that Boushie and four others were in that day had a flat tire. The driver testified the group had been drinking and tried to break into a truck on a neighbouring farm, but went to the Stanley property in search of help with the tire.
Stanley testified he and his son heard the SUV drive into the farmyard and then heard one of their all-terrain vehicles start. Both he and his son thought it was being stolen.
At one point, court was told, the SUV hit another vehicle on the property and Stanley said he believed his wife was being run over.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press