A jury has found a Saskatchewan farmer not guilty in the fatal shooting of an Indigenous man.
Gerald Stanley was charged with second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie from the Red Pheasant First Nation in August 2016.
The jury deliberated for 13 hours before reaching its decision.
Stanley, 56, turned and looked into the gallery after the verdict came down while Boushie’s family and friends gasped and sobbed.
Outside court, Boushie’s uncle Alvin Baptiste said there is no justice for his nephew.
“How First Nations are treated in the justice system is not right,” he said.
“A white jury came out with a verdict of not guilty of Gerald Stanley, who shot and killed my nephew. This is how they treat us First Nations people. It is not right. Something has to be done about this — the government, Justin Trudeau, we asked you to give us Indigenous people justice.”
Crown prosecutor Bill Burge said it was clearly an emotional case for the jury.
“We were there to present the evidence. We didn’t leave anything out that would have made a difference. There was nothing more that could be done. We put it out there. The jury made their decision. That’s their duty and they took it seriously.”
The case has exposed racial tensions in Saskatchewan and there were immediate pleas for calm.
“To all of those who are broken today, please, please remain peaceful,” said Kimberly Jonathan, a vice-chief with Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
“It’s not us against them,” the vice-chief said. “We felt unsafe then and we’re still unsafe. Someone can say it’s an accident to shoot any one of us and they are found not guilty.
Let’s coexist and live peacefully.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe asked people to be measured in their response.
“I know there may be some strong reactions,” Moe said in a statement. “Let us all remember our personal responsibility for our thoughts, our actions, and our comments — including those on social media.
“Let us continue to demonstrate consideration, patience and understanding for one another as we move forward together in reconciliation.”
Prime Minister Trudeau reacted to the verdict via social media from California.
Just spoke with @Puglaas. I can’t imagine the grief and sorrow the Boushie family is feeling tonight. Sending love to them from the US.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) February 10, 2018
The trial heard that Boushie was shot in the head while he was sitting in an SUV that had been driven onto Stanley’s farm near Biggar, Sask.
The driver of the SUV testified the group had been drinking during the day and tried to break into a truck on a neighbouring farm, but went to the Stanley property in search of help with a flat tire.
Stanley’s son testified that he and his father heard an ATV start up and they thought it was being stolen.
Stanley testified that he fired warning shots to scare the group off. He said that the fatal shot occurred when he reached into the SUV to grab the keys and his gun “just went off.”
The defence drilled into inconsistencies in the testimony of some of the witnesses who were in the SUV with Boushie.
They admitted they lied to investigators about stealing and changed their stories right before taking the witness stand.
The defence argued in its final summation that there was no evidence that Stanley meant to kill Boushie. Lawyer Scott Spencer said the shooting was a freak accident that ended in tragedy.
He also said that Stanley’s response was measured and asked jurors if they would have acted differently if they’d been in the farmer’s shoes.
Burge disputed that, arguing that Stanley handled the firearm carelessly and that the only inference was that he pulled the trigger and fired the fatal shot.
Source: Canadian Press