Published Friday, February 9, 2018 1:18PM CST
Last Updated Friday, February 9, 2018 7:55PM CST
Gerald Stanley has been found not guilty in the shooting death of Colten Boushie.
A 12-person jury reached the verdict Friday evening.
The seven women and five men had been deliberating since Thursday afternoon, following instruction from Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Martel Popescul, who presided over the trial in Battleford.
Stanley, 56, was charged in the August 2016 death of Boushie, a Cree man from the Red Pheasant First Nation.
Court heard during the trial, which started Jan. 29, the 22-year-old 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.
Popescul said during his instruction jurors must choose between three options: that Stanley is guilty of second-degree murder, that Stanley is guilty of manslaughter or that Stanley be acquitted.
It’s not disputed Stanley caused the death, Popescul told the jury. 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.
The jury re-heard testimony during the day Friday from both Stanley and his son, Sheldon, before reaching the verdict hours later.
Stanley testified Monday he thought his Tokarev handgun was disarmed when Boushie was shot. He took the magazine out of the gun after firing warning shots straight into the air, he said.
He said he couldn’t see his wife, who had been on a riding lawnmower, and thought she was under the SUV. He told court he sprinted toward the vehicle to look underneath and the vehicle revved.
“From here I ran as hard as I could to the front of the car. I went right to the front of the car. I looked down, then I was going to kneel down to look under and the car revved up. I thought the car was going to run me over,” he testified.
The gun, in his right hand, fired when he was reaching his left arm across the SUV’s steering wheel to turn off the ignition, according to Stanley.He said he was holding the gun’s magazine in his left hand and that his finger wasn’t on the trigger.
“It just went off,” he told court.
He then saw his wife and son standing near the SUV, after the shooting, he said.
Crown prosecutor Bill Burge argued in his closing statement Stanley’s and Sheldon’s testimonies didn’t match. Stanley said he ran to the SUV, while Sheldon testified he saw his father walk by the SUV.
Stanley’s lawyer, Scott Spencer, who described the shooting as a “freak accident,” said during his closing arguments the shot was a hang fire — a delay between when the trigger is pulled and when the bullet fires.
“It’s a tragedy, but it’s not criminal,” Spencer said. “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.”
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 because 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.”
Two of the five people who were with Boushie the day of the shooting testified last week the group was looking for help with a flat tire, but both Stanley and his son told court they believed someone from the SUV was attempting to steal an all-terrain vehicle from the yard.
Both lawyers used the term “highly charged” to describe the situation.
— Written by Kevin Menz, with files from Angelina Irinici and The Canadian Press’s Bill Graveland