Misalignment blamed for cartridge bulge, expert says at Stanley trial; gun fired fine during tests
A bulge on a cartridge found in the SUV in which court heard Colten Boushie was killed may be explained by what one gun expert calls an “out-of-battery” handgun.
Gun and ammunition expert John Ervin, who took the stand Friday as the defence’s first witness at Gerald Stanley’s second-degree murder trial, told court the Russian-made Tokarev handgun seized after the fatal August 2016 shooting on Stanley’s farm was not aligned properly when it fired.
He said the abnormal casing found in the SUV can be explained by the misalignment, but he couldn’t speculate on how the gun — which the Crown alleges Stanley fired three times — was shot.
“I simply don’t know what in fact caused that firearm to discharge,” Ervin told Battleford’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
Stanley, who’s pleaded not guilty, is charged in Boushie’s death.
Boushie was shot once while inside an SUV on Stanley’s farm on Aug. 9, 2016, according to Crown prosecutor Bill Burge. The fatal shot entered behind Boushie’s left ear and exited through the side of his neck.
Stanley’s son testified earlier this week he heard three gunshots before seeing his father, with a gun and a clip in his hands, standing close to the SUV. His dad appeared as if he’d be sick.
“I don’t know what happened. It just went off. I just wanted to scare them,” Stanley said, according to his son.
Another Crown witness, Belinda Jackson, said she and another woman were in the SUV’s back seat when Boushie was shot. She told court Thursday she heard a man say, “Go get a gun,” and saw a younger man go inside the house while an older man walked into a garage and grabbed a handgun, before the shooting.
“He came around the car to the passenger side and he shot Colten in the head,” Jackson testified. She said the younger man came outside of the house holding a long gun.
She identified Stanley as the shooter during cross-examination of her testimony, but she also stated she didn’t realize he was the man who fired the shots until she saw a photograph of the 56-year-old and saw him at the case’s preliminary hearing.
Defence lawyer Scott Spencer questioned Jackson’s testimony, stating the testimony was a different version of events than what she initially told RCMP.
Tokarev handgun fired fine in tests
Three spent gun casings found at the scene — two located outside the SUV and one found on the vehicle’s dash — matched the Tokarev handgun, which was found inside the Stanley home, Burge said Tuesday. Boushie’s DNA was on the gun and gun residue was found on Stanley’s hands.
Ervin, as well as Crown witness Greg Williams, another gun expert, both said the handgun fired fine when tested, but Williams noted during cross-examination one cartridge he tested failed to fire when it was supposed to.
The forensic firearms expert, Williams, tested 36 cartridges from 80 that were seized from the Stanley farm. The ammunition tested was Czechoslovakian army surplus ammunition from 1953, and Williams told court misfires with older ammunition like the ones he tested are not uncommon.
“It’s not unusual to have misfires,” he said.
Williams, whose testimony began Thursday but moved into Friday, was the last Crown witness to speak before Burge closed the Crown’s case.
He told court Thursday he was unsure what caused the “unusual bulge” in the cartridge found in the SUV, but he did provide a list of five speculative causes: a mechanical malfunction in the pistol, the cartridge was fired by a gun with a different sized barrel, the barrel was obstructed, the slide was blocked, or the ammunition was defective.
Defective ammunition can cause what’s called a hang fire, which is a delay between when the trigger is pulled and when the gun fires, but Williams noted a hang fire alone wouldn’t cause the bulge. He also said hang fires are rare.
Ervin said he couldn’t determine if there was a hang fire or not when the Tokarev was fired.
Stanley’s defence lawyer, Scott Spencer, called Ervin to the stand Friday before presenting his opening arguments — which is not a typical move during trials. He said he’ll present his opening statement Monday before calling more witnesses.
--- Written by Kevin Menz, based on reporting from Angelina Irinici