Crown won't appeal not guilty verdict in Gerald Stanley murder trial

Crown prosecutors won't appeal the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, the Saskatchewan farmer who was accused of fatally shooting a young Indigenous man in the head.

Sask. farmer was found not guilty last month in Colten Boushie's shooting death

Colten Boushie, 22, was shot and killed on Aug. 9, 2016, on a farm near Biggar, Sask. (The Canadian Press)

Crown prosecutors won't appeal the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, the Saskatchewan farmer who was accused of fatally shooting a young Indigenous man in the head.

Stanley, of the Biggar, Sask. area, was found not guilty by a 12-person jury last month in the shooting death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie from Red Pheasant Cree Nation.

Many people, including Boushie's family and supporters, had been calling for an appeal.

I believe everything was done appropriately.— Anthony Gerein, assistant deputy attorney general

"My family has been denied justice once again," Boushie's uncle, Alvin Baptiste, told CBC News after learning of the decision.

"And they keep asking us to have faith in the justice system, but I don't think Indigenous people have faith in the justice system at all."

But Saskatchewan's senior Crown prosecutor said on Wednesday that a verdict can't be appealed because people don't agree with it or because there may be questions about the investigation; there has to be an error in law.

We have to live by a white-man's law.— Alvin Baptiste, Colten Boushie's uncle

"I believe everything was done appropriately," said Anthony Gerein, assistant deputy attorney general for Saskatchewan, at a news conference in Regina. 

Gerein said the judge, the prosecutor and the defence lawyer made no errors in law. There were no errors in the judge's instruction to the jury, he said, and no errors in how evidence was accepted or dismissed, or any other procedural errors that would warrant an appeal. 

"It's a principled decision. Not something based on a whim or off the cuff," he said. "It has to be a mistake that made a difference in a case."

Gerein said he did not reach out to Boushie's family.

"It's a legal decision and we have to make sure those things are kept separate," he said. 

The deadline to file the appeal was Monday next week.

Stanley's lawyer did not immediately respond to calls for comment. 

A Saskatchewan jury acquitted Gerald Stanley of second-degree murder charges in Boushie's death. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Not surprised

Baptiste said he hoped for an appeal but, given the government's history with Indigenous people, said he's not surprised by the outcome. 

"I knew that we were going to get denied. That's how we are as First Nations people, we are always denied," he said. 

"I guess it's more of a white-man's law. We have to live by a white-man's law." 

The Boushie family's lawyer, Chris Murphy, said he'd heard from lawyers and academics across Canada over the past few weeks suggesting reasons for an appeal. He outlined a number of them in a six-page letter to Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan on Tuesday. 

For example, two civilian witnesses were called by the defence to discuss Stanley's handgun. One read from a manual while the other discussed a case from 40 years ago with "a completely different type of weapon, a completely different type of ammunition."

Murphy said those witnesses should not have been allowed.

This is just another injustice the family has faced.— Eleanore Sunchild, lawyer

"The verdict could have been different," Murphy said.

"The public needs to know what happened in this case, and that hasn't happened yet."

"I feel sick to my stomach." 

Murphy said he spoke to Boushie's mother, Debbie Baptiste, by phone moments after Wednesday's announcement.

"Her attitude is 'We're going to keep fighting,'" he said.

Murphy said he plans to send a detailed letter to Gerein about what he sees as significant problems with how the case was handled. 

"He's under the belief that this was prosecuted fully. I disagree," he said.

When asked, Murphy would not commit one way or the other to launching a civil case.

'Significant problems'

Glen Luther,  a law professor at the University of Saskatchewan, says there were "significant problems" with the investigation, and he questions some of the Crown's decisions in its prosecution of the case.

Despite that, he says the evidence warranted at least a manslaughter conviction, though he also wasn't surprised by the decision to not appeal.

Another lawyer working with the Boushie family, Eleanore Sunchild, said she was also disappointed, but not surprised.

"This is just another injustice the family has faced," she said.

"For the Indigenous community, this is the pattern. They have lost faith."

With files from CBC's Jason Warick and The Canadian Press