Gerald Stanley to stand trial for second degree murder

Gerald Stanley has been committed to stand trial in the Court of Queen's Bench, Battleford, on the charge of second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie.

The ruling came from Judge Bruce Bauer after testimony wrapped in Stanley's preliminary hearing at around noon Thursday at provincial court, North Battleford. All the testimony is under a publication ban.

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The next scheduled appearance for Stanley is June 26, 1:30 p.m. in provincial court on two charges of unsafe storage of a firearm.

As for the murder trial, dates have not been set as of yet, but prosecutor Bill Burge indicated in brief comments to reporters that he expects it would happen in the late fall, in Battleford.

Stanley will be tried in connection to the shooting death of Boushie on a farm in the RM of Glenside last Aug. 9. The preliminary hearing was held to determine whether there was enough evidence to proceed to trial.

The court proceedings were held before packed courtrooms starting Monday and Tuesday, before taking a day off Wednesday. While the court was booked for the entire week to hear the case, the preliminary wrapped up Thursday, a full day ahead of schedule.

Although the Monday and Tuesday proceedings did not see the large crowds that were expected, Thursday morning saw the largest contingent of supporters at the courthouse all week. A rally was organized in front of the courthouse around 9 a.m.

At that rally, a number of indigenous leaders, including FSIN officials and several area chiefs, were in attendance to denounce the racism they were seeing.

"This is tragic, but again it's not the first time," said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations vice-chief Heather Bear. She voiced support for laying charges against those who had promoted hate speech on social media in the wake of the tragedy.

"Absolutely, I think we need to put social media on notice for perpetuating the attitudes."

At the rally Colten's cousin Jade Tootoosis stood beside Colten's mother, Debbie Baptiste, and read a statement on behalf of the family.

"While his death revealed a deep divide in this province, it also brought us here, to this court house where we can come together and ask for a fair trial for everyone involved. We, Colten's family, hope that this preliminary hearing and the issues that it raises about our relationships with each other, will generate further discussion and dialogue to help us bring our communities together."  

The rally itself was well-attended but peaceful. There were also crowds in the area following the preliminary hearing, who broke into chants of "Justice for Colten" after they learned that Stanley had been committed to stand trial.

"I'm pretty sure my brother's looking down now happy," said William Boushie to reporters following the proceedings.

Defence lawyer Scott Spencer had little to say as he and Stanley exited the court house. A couple of people shouted "shame on you!" and "murderer!" at Stanley as he walked towards and entered Spencer's vehicle on their way out.

In speaking to reporters, Boushie family lawyer Chris Murphy said he would be "speaking to the family and discussing the best way to go forward from here."

The preliminary hearing had seen its share of controversy over the past week, mainly about the amount of security present. A portion of Railway Avenue in front of the courthouse was cordoned off from 11th Avenue to 101st Street on Monday and while the street was partially reopened Tuesday, it was completely cordoned off again Thursday morning before reopening in the afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon, FSIN youth representative Andre Bear was critical of the heavy security presence and the RCMP, telling reporters that there were reports of how the police were protecting Stanley and "taking him to the bank, they are taking him everywhere, they are escorting him everywhere."

In a response to the media Wednesday, Spencer said this was not true and added that misinformation was potentially compromising the legal process.

"It was out there and so I felt it was necessary to set the record straight," Spencer told reporters in his brief remarks as he was leaving provincial court Thursday.

When asked about Spencer's concerns, Murphy said "obviously myself and the Boushie family, all they want is that there be a fair trial and that includes Mr. Stanley's fair trial rights to be protected," as well as the community's entitlement to hearing where the truth is determined.

"That's what the Boushie family wants is for the truth to come out at trial."

When asked if an impartial jury could be found in the Battlefords, Murphy said "there's always the ability to find an impartial jury." He pointed to the "challenge for cause" process of questioning potential jurors.

He believes the trial is likely to happen in Battleford. "The presumption is legally that the trial takes place in the community where the alleged offence occurs. A community has an interest in having the trial conducted in their community."

While Murphy acknowledged a trial could be moved due to publicity making it impossible for a fair trial to happen in that community, those circumstances were "very rare," Murphy said.

© Copyright Battlefords News Optimist

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