Gerald Stanley either intentionally caused the death of Colten Boushie, or he handled his weapon so carelessly that he deserves to be held accountable, the Crown argued on Thursday in its final summation to the jury in Mr. Stanley's second-degree murder trial.
Crown lawyer Bill Burge said in his submission that Mr. Stanley's account of a freak accident caused by a hangfire – a rare delay between trigger-pull and discharge – simply doesn't add up.
"If it was pulled intentionally, I'm suggesting it was murder. If it was pulled accidentally, look at all those circumstances and look at how Gerald Stanley handled a firearm," Mr. Burge said.
In its submission to the jury, the defence said Mr. Stanley did not pull the trigger and had no intention of hurting anyone that day. Mr. Stanley's lawyer, Scott Spencer, said what happened was tragic but not criminal, and reasonable in the circumstances.
Mr. Stanley, 56, is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Mr. Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man. Mr. Boushie was a passenger in a grey Ford Escape that drove on to Mr. Stanley's farm, near Biggar, Sask., on Aug. 9, 2016. He died of a single gunshot wound to the head. The case has riveted Saskatchewan and polarized opinion in the province.
The jury began its deliberations on Thursday evening. Chief Justice Martel Popescul told the jurors they have three options: to find Mr. Stanley not guilty, guilty of murder or guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter.
Mr. Burge said that if the jury finds that Mr. Stanley intentionally pulled the trigger, then it's clear he intended to cause harm to Mr. Boushie, which would lead to a finding of murder. There is also the possibility that he acted carelessly.
Mr. Burge argued that Mr. Stanley did not know how much ammunition he had loaded in the gun, he ensured it was empty by continually pulling the trigger and believed, wrongly, that if he removed the magazine the firing mechanism would be disabled.
"I would suggest that demonstrates the careless nature with which he used this firearm," Mr. Burge said.
Aspects of Mr. Stanley's account don't hold up to scrutiny, Mr. Burge said. Mr. Stanley testified that after he fired two warning shots, he was suddenly afraid his wife was under the Escape and ran to the front to check. But as he was kneeling down the Escape's engine began to rev and, afraid for his own safety, he got up and went to the driver's side, Mr. Stanley testified. When he reached the window he leaned in and with his left hand knocked the keys from the ignition. It was at that moment the gun fired.
"Was Gerald Stanley telling us the truth when he said he was so concerned that his wife might be underneath this car when, according to Sheldon Stanley, when the shot was fired, [his father] walked straight towards him. He didn't go look under the car," Mr. Burge said.
He also rejected Mr. Stanley's assertion that a hangfire was to blame.
Mr. Spencer said it's important to consider all the circumstances of that day to weigh Mr. Stanley's actions. The young people were up to no good, he said. They intended to steal, and they created this highly charged situation that led to tragedy, he said.
Mr. Stanley never pointed the weapon at anybody, he argued, and pulled the trigger several times to make sure it was empty.
The only evidence the shot was fired intentionally comes from the testimony of Belinda Jackson, and Mr. Spencer attacked her evidence directly.
"Belinda Jackson is not telling the truth," he said, citing the differences in her testimony from the forensic evidence. In addition to changing aspects of her account, Ms. Jackson testified she heard two shots into the car, when there appears to have been one, and that Mr. Boushie was seated in the passenger seat, when blood spatter shows he was in the driver's seat.
"What I submit this trial comes down to is whether Gerry acted reasonably in a highly charged situation. … Or was it a marked departure from what you'd expect a reasonable person to do?" Mr. Spencer said.
"This is about a freak accident. It's not criminal, it's a tragedy," Mr. Spencer said. "Some people aren't going to be happy unless it's murder. … But you have to do what's right."
The court was filled to capacity on Thursday. An overflow room set up to accommodate the public was filled before court opened and more than 20 people waited outside for a chance to catch a glimpse of proceedings.
The Saskatchewan RCMP issued a call for calm a few hours before deliberations began.
The Canadian Press