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R v Stanley and Evidentiary Shortcomings

This blog post will touch on how the evidence in R v Stanley, 2018 SKQB 27 was potentially mismanaged and how the outcome of the case may have been different had the whole of the evidence been considered. Colten Boushie was a 22-year-old man from Cree Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan who was shot and killed by a Caucasian man named Gerald Stanley.[1] Stanley was initially charged with second-degree murder but was ultimately acquitted on February 9th, 2018.[2] The circumstances of the killing, the RCMP investigation, the trial, and the verdict have been continuous subjects of controversy[3] (and for good reason). For one aspect of the case, the jury was all-white.[4]


Boushie was shot in the back of the head while sitting in a vehicle.[5] The vehicle was then “left uncovered, its doors open, for two rainy days, washing away evidence.”[6] The RCMP knew this was a murder investigation, so the precise location of the murder should have been preserved until further investigation was complete. This evidence could have quite possibly led to a conviction of Stanley. In my opinion, the vehicle in which the shooting took place was the most important piece of evidence in this case.


Judge Popescul informed the jury that if they had a reasonable doubt about Stanley’s guilt arising from the evidence, the absence of the evidence, or the credibility or the reliability of one or more of the witnesses, then they must find him not guilty.[7] I believe that the absence of the evidence, in particular the vehicle, should have led the jury’s verdict to be appealed by the Crown attorney. Stanley stated that he was simply defending his property, but there is a complete lack of evidence that the group of youth were on his property with an intent to steal. Their vehicle sprung a leak and their muffler was dragging on the ground[8], so it is quite possible that the group were on his property to seek help. Regardless, Stanley had many alternatives to killing Boushie. For instance, he could have called the cops or simply told the youth to leave his property.


“The transcript discloses many lost opportunities to collect, analyze and present independent evidence against which Stanley’s testimony, the testimony of eyewitnesses and the hang fire theory could have been judged.”[9] This is completely unacceptable and shows a failure on the part of not only the justice system, but also the detectives who handled this case. Expert witnesses on guns should have been brought in. Forensic pathologists could have found out how Boushie was moving when he was shot and the manner in which he was killed.[10] A crime scene investigator testified at Stanley’s trial that his evidence was guided by “witness statements” about the actions and location of Stanley and Boushie.[11] Although, he was relying only on statements given by the Stanley family, and he did not know that statements given by Indigenous eyewitnesses contradicted key parts of the Stanleys’ statements.[12] I am not sure how this happened, but all statements should have been heard prior to the verdict being given. Only one story is the truth, so credibility really must come into play here.


The RCMP failed to investigate all the witness statements they possibly could have, so important evidence was inevitably missed.[13] I strongly believe that the verdict would have been different if all of the evidence was taken into account. Police never found the bullet that killed Boushie and the crime scene investigator did not keep the scene as it was.[14] Although the rain could not have been prevented, a tent could have been put up over the vehicle so as to not have trace evidence, such as blood, washed away. A more thorough investigation could have provided independent evidence against which the witness statements in the trial could be tested.[15] I believe that this case was not given much thought or effort on the part of the investigators. There are so many parts of this case that lacked the proper processes.


There were also many contradictory statements made in court.[16] Cassidy Cross-Whitstone, an 18-year-old man who was in the vehicle with Boushie, testified at the trial that the group went to Stanley’s farm to search for help with the vehicle’s muffler.[17] Stanley stated that the group of youth were on his farm to steal.[18] In addition, Stanley said that he did not point a gun at anyone.[19] If this were true, Boushie would still be living today.


This case was and still is an atrocity in my opinion. The whole case could have been handled very differently. If justice cannot be served for Colten Boushie and his family, I hope that this case does not set a precedent for future cases involving an Indigenous victim and a Caucasian killer.

[1] Kendall Latimer, “Colten Boushie's mom says healing won't happen without RCMP apology for racial discrimination” (9 August 2021), online: CBC <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/debbie-baptiste-colten-boushie-five-years-1.6132604>. [2] Ibid. [3] “Killing of Colten Boushie” (28 January 2023), online: Wikipedia <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Colten_Boushie>. [4] Julian Brave NoiseCat, “I am Colten Boushie. Canada is the all-white jury that acquitted his killer” (28 February 2018), online: The Guardian <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/28/colten-boushie-canada-all-white-jury-acquitted>. [5] Ibid. [6] Ian Austin, “A Murder Trial Stirs Emotions About Canada’s Relations With Indigenous Population” (9 February 2018), online: The New York Times < https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/world/canada/canada-saskatchewan-murder-indigenous.html>. [7] Martel D Popescul, “Full transcript of judge’s instructions to Colten Boushie jury: Put yourself in a juror’s shoes” (14 February 2018), online: The National Post <https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/full-transcript-of-judges-instructions-to-colten-boushie-jury-put-yourself-in-a-jurors-shoes>. [8] Guy Quenneville, “What happened on Gerald Stanley's farm the day Colten Boushie was shot, as told by witnesses” (6 February 2018), online: CBC https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/what-happened-stanley-farm-boushie-shot-witnesses-colten-gerald-1.4520214. [9] Emma Cunliffe, “The forensic failures of the Stanley trial” (27 September 2018), online: Policy Options <https://policyoptions.irpp.org/fr/magazines/september-2018/the-forensic-failures-of-the-stanley-trial/>. [10] Ibid. [11] Ibid. [12] Ibid. [13] Ibid. [14] Ibid. [15] Ibid. [16] Guy Quenneville, “Gerald Stanley murder trial judge advises jury on contradictory testimony” (2 February 2018), online: CBC <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/gerald-stanley-lawyer-defence-friday-1.4516243>. [17] Supra note 8. [18] Estair Van Wagner & Alexandra Flynn, “How property and place were key issues in the Stanley trial” (26 September 2018), online: Policy Options <https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/september-2018/how-property-and-place-were-key-issues-in-the-stanley-trial/>. [19] Supra note 8.

 

The views and opinions expressed in the blogs are the views of their authors, and do not represent the views of the Faculty of Law, or the University of Manitoba. Academic Members of the University of Manitoba are entitled to academic freedom in the context of a respectful working and learning environment.

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