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Indigenous activists organize and protest in wake of Gerald Stanley's acquittal

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The courthouse in Battleford, Saskatchewan, where Gerald Stanley's trial was held

This is the second part in a 2-part series. You can find the first part here.

Jury Selection and Trial

Gerald Stanley finally went to trial in early 2018 at the Court of Queen's Bench Saskatchewan, presided over by Saskatchewan Chief Justice Martel D. Popescul.

In a trial that lasted about a week, Stanley was acquitted by an all-white jury on February 9, 2018.

Apparently, First Nations community members attended the jury selection process, but none were successful candidates. The case went ahead with a jury spread which further stoked tensions that racial intolerance would preside over the case, first when Stanley was granted bail of only $10,000 cash surety, and then again when he was acquitted.

There are enough Indigenous people in Saskatchewan to make it statistically likely that one could be selected for the jury. There have not been any really convincing arguments on why Boushie’s case ended up with an all-white jury in the first place, since at the pre-trial the court had access to a huge pool of 750 people who were summoned as potential jurors.

This just demonstrates that yet again, as in the past, the justice system is biased against community members who are either Indigenous, people of colour, or both.

The trial took place from January 30th to February 9th, 2018.

Stanley's attorney Scott Spencer argued during the trial that there was "no evidence" that Stanley intentionally killed Boushie, who remained in the front passenger seat the entire time. Spencer claimed the shot had been accidental, a result of a "hang fire" which can occur when there is a delay between the time the trigger is pulled and the discharge of the weapon.

So, according to Spencer, there was enough reasonable doubt as to whether Stanley actually intended to shoot Boushie in the head. This angle would get Stanley off on all the charges.

Testimony from witnesses

Belinda Jackson -- one of the women sitting in the backseat when her friend was killed -- testified that she heard someone say, "Go get a gun" about a minute before the fatal shooting on the evening of August 9, 2016.

She told the court that "Stanley came outside carrying a handgun, came around the car to the passenger side and he shot Colten in the head." Jackson testified that she was, "not comfortable describing how he shot him."

She did not realize at first that it had been Gerald Stanley who had fired the shot that killed Boushie until she saw a photograph in the aftermath of the murder. Stanley’s defense lawyer tried to claim that Boushie was in the driver's seat, which she vehemently disputed.

There is also lingering suspicion concerning what happened after the group had driven onto Stanley’s property for assistance with their broken SUV, as someone from their group did try and steal an ATV off their property.

Even still, does killing someone give appropriate, balanced, punishment to someone else's attempting to steal an ATV, especially since the person killed was not involved in the theft?

Stanley’s son, Sheldon, reported hearing a total of three gunshots that evening. He testified that he heard one gunshot just before entering the home, one shot while inside the house and a third after exiting the home.

"I don’t know what happened. It just went off. I just wanted to scare them," his father said, according to Sheldon.

The defense brought in Greg Williams, an expert witness in firearms. He put forward the explanation of a rare firearm phenomenon called a "hang fire."  Williams told the courtroom that 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,

Reaction to the case outcome

Judge Popescul told the jurors they must be completely sure the Crown has proven its case against Stanley beyond a reasonable doubt to convict, saying, "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 jury began deliberating around 4:00 pm on Thursday February 8, 2018, and then announced that they had reached a verdict the next day. As the not guilty verdict was announced at 7:35 pm, Boushie’s mother Debbie Baptiste rose from her seat and screamed. 

Already members are discussing the necessity of an appeal.

A report by APTN on February 8th stated that "The case has exposed an ugly side in rural Saskatchewan -- landowners who blame Indigenous people for high rates of property crime and First Nations who bear the brunt of that racism and hate."

The all white journey and the acquittal in the case made the domestic and international news. There were small rallies in places like Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Guelph, London and Toronto and a rally at the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles to demonstrate against the verdict and calling for an appeal.

Clint Wuttunee, Chief of the Red Pheasant First Nation, called the verdict "absolutely perverse" and stated that "an all-white jury formed the twisted view of that obvious truth and found Stanley not guilty."

In response to the verdict, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Vice-Chief David Pratt wanted people to consider that the court case was crippled since the beginning. His organization again challenged the jury selection system, saying that "defence counsel used peremptory challenges to block every potential juror who appeared to be Indigenous."

Bobby Cameron, chief of the FSIN, also took note of the extraordinary story about the supposedly accidental killing of Boushie.

"In this day and age, when someone can get away with killing somebody, when someone can get away with saying, 'I accidentally walked to the storage shed, I accidentally grabbed a gun out of the storage box and I accidentally walked back to the car and then I accidentally raised my arm in level with the late Colten Boushie's head, then my finger accidentally pushed the trigger' -- what a bunch of garbage."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even found time to wade into the issue, when he issued a statement on February 10, 2018, saying, "I am going to say we have come to this point as a country far too many times. Indigenous people across this country are angry, they're heartbroken and I know Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike know that we have to do better."

Harnessing the power of social media, the #JusticeforColten hashtag was quickly created so Canadians could take to the internet to make their opinion known about the all-white jury and Stanley’s acquittal in the case.

This case of exposed racism could have quickly and quietly sunk into the deep waters of Canada’s denial, but it is members of Indigenous communites that are using different narrative means to expose that such a killing could still happen 150 years after we had become a nation. Shame. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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