Colten Boushie family lawyer says vehicle evidence in shooting compromised
Defence lawyer says it appears 'crucial piece of physical evidence' was not kept in RCMP compound
The lawyer representing Colten Boushie's family is accusing the RCMP of compromising a key piece of evidence in the murder case.
Boushie was a 22-year-old Indigenous man who was shot and killed on a farm near Biggar, Sask., on Aug. 9. Boushie was a passenger in a vehicle with four other people. His family says the group was going to ask for help with a flat tire.
The owners of the property did not know the people in the vehicle, according to RCMP.
Gerald Stanley, 54, has pleaded not guilty to a count of second-degree murder in Boushie's death. A preliminary hearing for Stanley has been set to begin on Jan. 16, 2017.
Chris Murphy, a Toronto-based lawyer representing the Boushie family, said that when he came to Saskatoon to meet the family he was shocked to learn the vehicle the group allegedly drove onto the Stanley property was sitting in an Astro Towing parking lot.
"It became very clear that it was not being held by police," said Murphy. "And I understood that it was exposed to the elements sitting with all the other cars in the Astro Towing parking lot."
When CBC News contacted Astro Towing the company directed CBC's inquiries to the RCMP.
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Murphy feels the integrity of the evidence was jeopardized because it was outside of police control.
"For that evidence to be essentially destroyed with no real chance of it being retested to me is just an inexcusable lapse on the part of the RCMP."
RCMP responded in an emailed response to CBC News.
"These reports are concerning to us. As this matter is now before the courts we will not be able to provide further comment at this time. Full details will be released through court proceedings," the statement said.
Murphy called into question the RCMP's ability to conduct a proper investigation.
It became very clear that it was not being held by police.- Chris Murphy, lawyer representing Colten Boushie's family
"When a family such as the Boushie family is told by, not by police but by me, a significant piece of evidence has been essentially destroyed, their concerns that were validly held before they learned of these details of the investigation are compounded."
Stanley's lawyer shocked
The defence lawyer representing Stanley said these recent developments raise concerns that could potentially compromise the legal process.
"I was, and still am, shocked that it appears that a crucial piece of physical evidence was not kept in a secure RCMP compound," said Scott Spencer.
Murphy said he's doing his best to help the Boushie family get a fair trial.
"What's important to note here is that the family has just lost the trust of the state in this case," he said. "And I think many members of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous community have lost the trust of the state."
I was, and still am, shocked that it appears that a crucial piece of physical evidence was not kept in a secure RCMP compound.- Scott Spencer, Gerald Stanley's lawyer
Murphy was born in Saskatoon and studied law at the University of Saskatchewan. He told CBC News that friends of his put him in contact with the Boushie family. Since then Murphy has been in constant contact with them.
"The family and I are just trying to find out what happened and want the truth to come out at the trial."
Murphy said that when he went back to Astro Towing the following day to take pictures of the vehicle, the car was gone. He's concerned key evidence may have been lost.
"It had been transferred to a SGI salvage lot where we attended and were told that the vehicle, once the claim was settled with the owner, would be put up on auction and sold to the highest bidder," said Murphy.
According to Murphy, he said he brought to the attention of the RCMP and Crown attorney that the vehicle was missing, gave them an exact location and requested they reclaim the vehicle for forensics.
"I'm trying to get an answer whether or not that car got re-seized by the RCMP. But they won't provide me with an answer."
Murphy said it's his understanding that, upon questioning RCMP, prior to the vehicle being released from the tow yard, a blood-spatter analysis was not conducted on the vehicle.
"Whatever forensic test the RCMP did, they neglected to do a blood spatter analysis," he said.
"In my experience as a criminal lawyer, a blood spatter analysis can provide extremely important evidence. You can determine, in many instances, where a person was sitting or where Colten was sitting in this case, exactly when he was shot in the back of head. You can determine if he was sitting upright. You can determine if he was bent over," said Murphy.
'Evidence going astray'
Spencer said despite concerns over how this evidence appears to have been handled, his attention is focused on the upcoming court case.
"I have no intention of defending Gerry against rumour and speculation, rather I must focus on trial evidence. As a result, I am not too concerned about what people, who generally do not know the facts, are saying, but I am certainly concerned about important physical evidence going astray."
"At this point, I am not sure whether the RCMP has retrieved the evidence or not," said Spencer.
"My primary goal is, and always will be, to ensure that Gerald Stanley receives a fair trial. I do not believe that the extensive media coverage and public speculation in relation to this matter is contributing to the integrity of the judicial process."
Calling on out-of-province investigator
Murphy said the family is now calling on an out-of-province investigator to take over the case. He said the family has lost all confidence in the judicial process.
RCMP also said that their major crimes unit is investigating and is as capable as anywhere else.
"What happens at trial will happen at trial. They just want to rest assured that it's being investigated to the best of the RCMP's ability," said Murphy. "Frankly speaking if this is the best the RCMP can do in this case, then another police force should come in and investigate."
Murphy said there's no excuse for why RCMP are not letting him, the Boushie family or the public know what they have done with the vehicle