‘Use your collective common sense’: Jury now deliberating verdict at Gerald Stanley trial
The jury has begun deliberations at the trial of Gerald Stanley, the Saskatchewan farmer accused of killing Colten Boushie.
Jurors can find Stanley, 56, guilty of second-degree murder, or manslaughter, or not guilty, Chief Justice Martel Popescul told them in the Battleford, Sask., courtroom Thursday afternoon.
Boushie, 22, was fatally shot on Stanley’s Biggar-area farm in August 2016. Stanley has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. Boushie was in an SUV that had pulled into the driveway of Stanley’s farm, along with other young people from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation. An altercation occurred between the strangers in the SUV and Stanley, his son and his wife.
Jury selection took place on Jan. 29 in a Battleford community hall, followed by several days of testimony from eyewitnesses, family members, experts and Stanley himself.
Thursday afternoon, Popescul said that to convict Stanley of second-degree murder, the jury must find that he caused Boushie’s death, that it was done unlawfully, and that he had the state of mind to commit murder. The Crown and defence already agreed that the first element has been proven, Popescul said. The deliberations will focus on the second and third elements.
Either extreme recklessness or intention are necessary to prove murder, Popescul said. If someone was killed but it wasn’t intentional and could not be foreseen, that may lead to a conviction on the lesser offence of manslaughter, he said.
“The difference between murder and manslaughter is not easy to define,” Popescul said.
The judge said the jury must follow legal principles and not be swayed by passion, bias or public opinion.
He encouraged jurors to “use your collective common sense” to evaluate witness reliability. Is there a reason for any perceived dishonesty? What were the circumstances and condition of witnesses? Is testimony based on observation or is it second-hand? Is it consistent with past statements?
On any verdict, the jury must be unanimous.
Popescul noted jurors had already chosen a foreperson.
“Be firm in your leadership but fair to everyone,” Popescul advised.
Both sides claim witnesses lied
Earlier Thursday, both the Crown and defence lawyers said in their closing statements that key witnesses had lied while testifying.
The prosecution told the jury that Stanley lied in court about events that led to Boushie’s shooting.
“I’m suggesting he told you a bit of a story here … he did not tell the truth,” said senior Crown prosecutor Bill Burge. “He is shading the evidence.”
Burge questioned the version of events Stanley related in court. He said things could not possibly have happened the way Stanley said they did.
For example, Stanley said he feared his wife was pinned under the visitors’ vehicle when the gun went off. However, the trial heard Stanley went to speak with his son, Sheldon, immediately after the shooting rather than check under the vehicle for his wife, Burge said.
As for the theory a “hang fire” in the handgun caused it to fire, Burge said both the RCMP and defence experts testified they are exceedingly rare and typically last only a fraction of a second. Neither expert could find anything to indicate that the gun malfunctioned, Burge said.
Burge said jurors can conclude Stanley is guilty of murder. He added that there is ample evidence of careless use of firearms to at least convict Stanley of manslaughter.
“[The trigger] was pulled intentionally. I’m suggesting that’s murder,” Burge said.
The prosecutor said Stanley didn’t know how many bullets he loaded in the handgun, and didn’t know how many times he pulled the trigger.
“This is no way for a person to keep track of his ammunition. I would suggest it’s a very irresponsible way to handle a handgun,” Burge said.
Defence’s closing arguments
Before Burge spoke to the jury, Stanley’s lawyer, Scott Spencer gave his final arguments.
Spencer encouraged jurors to imagine how they would have reacted during the confrontation with Boushie and his friends.
“Put yourself in Gerry’s boots … What this trial comes down to is whether Gerry acted reasonably,” Spencer told the jury.
“It’s a tragedy, but it’s not criminal. You must acquit.”
There are some points that are “debatable,” Spencer said, adding a conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Spencer repeatedly said Boushie’s friends lied when they were in the witness box.
“What’s frustrating for me is that they are still not telling the truth,” he told jurors.
Spencer said Boushie’s friend Belinda Jackson was the only witness to say Stanley shot Boushie. Spencer said her testimony was “dangerous, malicious” and untrue. He said she has changed key details of her story multiple times since Boushie’s death.
Spencer said no one knows exactly why Stanley’s handgun went off, killing Boushie. He said the best theory is the gun did not function properly and went off by mistake.
“Bottom line is that Gerry was in a nightmare situation. He didn’t have any intention of hurting anyone,” Spencer said.