Stanley jury begins deliberations; judge outlines murder, manslaughter, acquittal options
A jury that’s spent the past two weeks hearing evidence at the trial of Gerald Stanley must now choose between three options: that Stanley is guilty of second-degree murder, that Stanley is guilty of manslaughter or that Stanley be acquitted.
Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Martel Popescul, who’s presiding over the trial in Battleford, Sask., outlined the options Thursday afternoon before the 12 jurors began deliberations.
“In this trial, I am the judge of the law. You are the judges of the facts,” Popescul said in his charge to the seven women and five men.
Stanley, who’s pleaded not guilty, is charged with second-degree murder in the August 2016 death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie. Court heard during the trial Boushie, a Cree man from the Red Pheasant First Nation, was shot in the head with a handgun while he was sitting in a front seat of an SUV that had been driven onto Stanley's farm near Biggar.
It’s not disputed Stanley caused the death, Popescul said. The verdict will come down to whether or not the jury finds he caused the death unlawfully.
“You must decide the issue of carelessness and lawful excuse,” Popescul instructed.
Stanley can be found guilty of second-degree murder if the jury determines the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt he caused Boushie’s death, he caused the death unlawfully and he was in a state of mind required for murder, Popescul said. To be in a state of mind for murder, the Crown must prove he meant to cause Boushie’s death or meant to cause bodily harm he knew was serious enough to likely result in death.
"You must determine if Gerald Stanley had the state of mind for murder. Did his behaviour show a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in the same circumstances?" the judge said.
To be found guilty of manslaughter, the jury must feel the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt Stanley used a gun in a careless manner and had no lawful excuse for his use of the weapon, according to Popescul.
Stanley’s defence lawyer, Scott Spencer, argued during the trial Boushie's death was a “freak accident.”
"There's no evidence he (Stanley) pulled the trigger," Spencer said during his closing arguments Thursday.
Stanley testified Monday he took the clip out of his Tokarev handgun after firing two or three warning shots straight into the air. He recalled the gun fired the first two times he pulled the trigger, but said he doesn’t think the gun fired with the third trigger pull.
Two men ran from the scene after Stanley fired what he claims were the warning shots, but he testified he was still scared approaching the vehicle. He couldn’t see his wife and was worried she’d been hit by the SUV.
The gun fired when he was reaching his left arm across the SUV’s steering wheel to turn off the ignition, he said. He thought the gun was disarmed.
“It just went off,” he told court.
Spencer described the situation as a “nightmare.”
"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 fatal shot was the result of a hang fire, a delay between pulling the trigger and a gun going off.
"It's a tragedy, but it's not criminal," Spencer 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 because he didn’t know how many bullets he loaded into the gun or how many shots he fired, and that he held a loaded gun close to three people in a vehicle in an unsafe manner. Burge also said Stanley wasn’t aware of the safety measures of his own gun, a gun he owned for four years, because he thought removing the magazine would disarm the gun — which isn’t the case.
"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 trial has heard that the SUV that Boushie and four others were in that day had a flat tire. One member of the group testified that they had been drinking and that two of them tried to break into a truck on a neighbouring farm. He said, however, they 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.
Both lawyers used the term “highly charged” to describe the situation.
The verdict must be a unanimous decision among all 12 jurors.
Popescul encouraged the jurors to discuss and listen to each other in their efforts to reach a verdict.
“Keep an open mind, but not an empty head,” he said.
--- CTV Saskatoon's Angelina Irinici and Janet Dirks are in North Battleford awaiting a verdict: