Day 6

'There is no justice!': outrage grows after Gerald Stanley found not guilty

Gerald Stanley, a Saskatchewan man charged with the second degree murder of 22 year old Indigenous man Colten Boushie, was found not guilty by a jury late last night. CBC News' Jason Warick explains what happened in the hours after.
A sign and photo of Colten Boushie sits in front of the Court of Queen's Bench on the day of closing arguments and first day of jury deliberation in the trial of Gerald Stanley. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Late Friday night, Gerald Stanley was acquitted of all charges in the death of Colten Boushie. The 22 year old Indigenous man died after being shot by Stanley on Stanley's farm in August of 2016.

Stanley pleaded not guilty to second degree murder. He claims the gun fired accidentally.

Jason Warick is a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan. (CBC)

The case has fuelled tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across Saskatchewan.

CBC Saskatchewan's Jason Warick has been covering the trial from the beginning. He spoke with Day 6 host Brent Bambury about the jury's decision. Here's part of their conversation.

Brent: What happened in the courtroom last night after the verdict was read out?

Jason: I've never seen anything like it. I've been covering [court] matters for more than 20 years and it was an incredible scene.

As the words left the jury foreperson's lips — not guilty — fractions of a second later, you could hear piercing high-pitched screams from the gallery, from several members of the Boushie family, followed by yells of, 'There is no justice!'

I had my eyes on [Gerald Stanley]. He was led out at a jog by security and RCMP through the front of the courtroom. When I looked over a couple of seconds later [at] the jury box, they [the jury] were gone. They were escorted out very quickly as well.

Members of Colten Boushie's family leave the Court of Queen's Bench after a jury delivered a verdict of not guilty in the trial of Gerald Stanley. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

The Crown prosecutor in this case called it a murder and the jury obviously rejected that. What do we know about the way the jury came to their decision?

We don't know. No one knows for sure except for those seven women and five men that deliberated for a little over 24 hours on this case. Jury deliberations, as you know, are secret.

But, the justice — the chief justice of the province — who is handling this case, Martel Popescul, had told them to eliminate all thoughts of bias, to ignore public opinion, to ignore anything that was going outside the courtroom and only focus on the facts.

One of the things that he said was that you should not imply guilt if you don't believe Gerald Stanley alone. So just picking one side or the other — who is telling the truth and who is lying — isn't enough to convict somebody of a very serious crime.

You have to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that Gerald Stanley did commit murder or manslaughter and in the end it's obvious the jury was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Jace Boushie, brother of Colten Boushie, left to right, Jade Tootoosis, cousin of Colten Boushie, and Alvin Baptiste, the uncle of Colten Boushie, attend a media event at the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs head office after a jury delivered a verdict late last night. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

Alvin Baptiste, Colten Boushie's uncle, predicted this outcome when you spoke to him after the jury was selected. He said the deck was stacked against his nephew. What are the issues around jury selection in this case?

I was at the jury selection. There were a number of Indigenous-looking candidates that came up and every one of them were challenged and excluded by the defence counsel. It is their right to do so under Canada's system.

Many other places like Great Britain ... have gotten rid of these peremptory challenges where you can exclude someone and not give a reason. That angered many people in Boushie's family and they said that that needs to change. It's something that the federal justice minister even weighed in on during the trial. 

Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould said, "As a country we can and must do better." That's an extraordinary comment. What do you think she's talking about?

It's incredible. I have no idea. We only have the tweet to go on at the moment. I mean you have the justice minister saying that she not only feels for the Boushie family but that Canada must do better. I don't know what that means yet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again expressing sympathy for the family but then also mentioning that he's spoken about the case with the Federal Justice Minister. So we know that this is being watched at the highest level. 

What do you think the trial has revealed about the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Saskatchewan?

I don't even know that it's just Saskatchewan. Many people were saying this isn't about Battleford, this isn't about Saskatchewan. This is a Canadian issue. And again generalizations are difficult for anything, but definitely there is a long and troubled history in this region.

This is a region where Chief Poundmaker was convicted of treason and has still not been exonerated. This is the region where John B. Tootoosis founded the first Indian organization in the country and were surveilled by RCMP; had to meet in secret.

Memories are long here. People remember those things and so when it comes to a case and all the Indigenous-looking jurors are rejected, people notice that and they see it as part of the continuum. 

Defence attorney Scott Spencer, right, and his client Gerald Stanley leave the Court of Queen's Bench on the day of closing arguments and first day of jury in deliberation. (Canadian Press)

The family has said they will likely appeal. There are these calls for reforms to the justice system. What do you think the fallout from this case will be? What will we see today? What will we see going forward? 

It's unclear. There is definitely outrage. As you may have heard, there are rallies planned for today at more than a dozen cities around the country, including on Parliament Hill, here in Saskatchewan and on First Nations around the country.

On the other hand, we haven't heard yet from the Stanley family or their lawyer and some at the courthouse and beyond have noted that perhaps this is exactly how the justice system should work despite incredible scrutiny and public pressure and all kinds of political issues. The jury, some would say, deliberated and rendered a verdict that they thought was just. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To hear our full interview with CBC's Jason Warick, download our podcast or click 'Listen' above.