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Canada Weapon that killed Colten Boushie does not appear to have malfunctioned, court hears

Colten Boushie.

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The gun that fired the shot that killed Colten Boushie showed no signs of malfunction, a firearms expert testified on Friday.

Gregory Williams, an RCMP forensics firearms specialist, told Gerald Stanley's second-degree murder trial that the gun functioned normally when tested in the lab.

Mr. Stanley, a 56-year-old farmer, is charged in the shooting death of Mr. Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man from the Red Pheasant First Nation. The case has been closely followed in Saskatchewan and has brought to the surface long-standing tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the province.

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Much of Friday's testimony focused on a single cartridge case found inside the vehicle in which Mr. Boushie was shot after he and others drove onto Mr. Stanley's farm. The cartridge case had an unusual bulge that Mr. Williams said indicated something out of the ordinary occurred in the firing process, but he could not pinpoint what it was.

"There was an abnormal bulge in that cartridge case, which indicates it was fired in an unconventional way," Mr. Williams said. He testified on Thursday that he could not reproduce the anomaly in his lab.

Court has heard from Mr. Stanley's son that Mr. Stanley was standing next to the vehicle holding a handgun moments after the shot was fired. Mr. Stanley said he did not know what happened, that he intended to scare Mr. Boushie and the others and "it just went off," his son testified.

Mr. Williams said defective ammunition that caused a malfunction known as a hangfire could produce such a bulge. In a hangfire, a slow burn in the primer causes a delay between the firing pin hitting the primer and the bullet being discharged. Mr. Williams said his research on published studies of hangfires indicated that they are exceedingly rare. When they do occur, the delay typically only lasts a quarter of a second.

Scott Spencer, Mr. Stanley's defence lawyer, asked how long, in theory, that delay could last.

"Based on the research I've read, I'd say, to be generous, the upper limit of that would be half a second," Mr. Williams said.

The gun examined by Mr. Williams is a Tokarev semi-automatic handgun, manufactured in 1947. The ammunition seized from Mr. Stanley's farm was manufactured in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1953. Mr. Spencer asked Mr. Williams if he considered it a high-quality gun. Mr. Williams said he would describe it as a functional firearm.

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Mr. Williams said he tested the weapon to see if it would fire when dropped, and it did not.

The defence called its first witness on Friday, a firearms expert named John Ervin. Mr. Ervin gave long and complex testimony about the possibility the weapon was fired "out of battery," or when the cartridge is not sitting properly in the chamber.

He said he could not say definitively whether there was a hangfire when Mr. Boushie was shot.

He also said that it was possible that older ammunition, or ammunition exposed to extreme temperatures, could malfunction. Court was told earlier that Mr. Stanley's ammunition was stored in a shed on his property.

At the start of proceedings on Friday, Chief Justice Martel Popescul addressed the jury with some midtrial instructions about earlier testimony.

Court heard from two of the people who were with Mr. Boushie when their Grey Ford Escape drove onto Mr. Stanley's farm. They admitted they had changed their stories about what happened since they first spoke to police after Mr. Boushie's death, both saying that they were scared and uncertain of how to handle the situation at the time.

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Chief Justice Popescul instructed them that if they decide the witnesses' version of events had changed, it was up to them to evaluate what they heard.

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