Credibility of witnesses under attack at Stanley trial

Three more witnesses were called by the Crown during Thursday’s proceedings at the Gerald Stanley trial.

Two individuals who were riding in the grey Ford Escape vehicle that eventually made its way to the Stanley farm - Cassidy Cross and Belinda Jackson - were on the stand Thursday at Battleford Queen’s Bench Court.

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They were among five individuals from Red Pheasant who were inside the grey Ford Escape, the vehicle in which the victim Colten Boushie was shot and killed.

Prosecutor Bill Burge had warned the jury during his opening statement to expect sometimes contradictory evidence from these “civilian” witnesses, and there was no shortage of that on this day.

Both Cross and Jackson were caught contradicting other witnesses who have testified, as well as their earlier statements made either to police or during last April’s preliminary hearing in North Battleford.

Firearms expert Greg Williams was the last witness to be called Thursday and he was due to return to the stand Friday for cross-examination. At the end of the day Thursday the indication was that the trial was running ahead of schedule, and could go for only two weeks instead of the allotted three.

The first order of business by counsel Thursday morning was the filing of an agreed statement of facts by both Crown and defence. This agreed statement includes several expert reports including the autopsy report, forensic reports, and evidence in the case.

The autopsy report finding concluded that it was a gunshot wound that caused his death, and determined the entry and exit wound. The entry wound was his left ear and the exit wound was the right side of his neck.

Following that piece of business, Cassidy Cross — aka Cassidy Cross-Whitstone — was called as the next witness. He was the driver inside the grey Ford Escape on Aug. 9, 2016. Prosecutor Chris Browne handled the Crown questioning of Cross.

Cross testified he was “hammered” — having had more than 30 shots of liquor.

He also described what happened at the Fouhy farm. There, Eric said go “check out that truck.”

He also testified he grabbed the .22 gun and tried smashing the window with it. Cross also testified it was Eric, not him, who was on the quad at the Stanley farm, contradicting Eric’s testimony of the day before.

Cross also described what happened after their SUV’s windshield was smashed and after it then ran into the back of a blue Ford Escape at the Stanley farm. He described panicking and running away from the SUV. He said he lost his boot, and had to go back and pick it up. Cross said eventually a farmer drove him home.

Cross also described the gunshots, remembering hearing two and saying one went by his right ear.

Scott Spencer launched into his cross examination by attacking Cross’s credibility.

“Did you change your story last night?” Spencer asked, referring to conversations Cross had with the Crown the night before.

Cross then admitted he had told the Crown he did have a gun, contradicting the earlier statements he had made during the preliminary hearing.

“Any explanation why you wouldn’t tell the truth?” Spencer asked. Cross responded he was scared he would get in trouble.

Spencer later asked Cross about the “lies circulating in the media.” He chipped away at Cross for lying about how much he had to drink.

Spencer also grilled Cross about his police statement about the shots that were fired. “I just told them what I heard, I didn’t think about it,” Cross responded.

Cross also admitted he was the one who vandalized the red vehicle at the Fouhy farm with the gun.

Following a break, Spencer resumed his crossexam. Cross confirmed on the stand that he was the one who had intended to ask for help when they pulled in to the Stanley farm. But then Eric Meechance tried to fire up the quad.

“He started stealing before you had a chance to get help,” Spencer asked. Cross responded in the affirmative.

Spencer also accused Cross of hearing something in the media and then trying to repeat it as fact. He also went through Cross’s long criminal record during his lengthy cross examination throughout the morning, before Cross finally left the stand.

The next witness was Belinda Jackson, Eric Meechance’s girlfriend who had been in the back seat of the vehicle when Boushie was shot. She was spending time in the Red Pheasant area during the summer.

She confirmed there was drinking and driving going on, and that Cassidy was driving the vehicle. She said Cassidy and Kiora Wuttunee were drunk during the morning.

She described the trip to Maymont to go swimming. As they were leaving the reserve she started to drink vodka and some rum out of a bottle.

The plan was to go back to the reserve to do more drinking. She said Cassidy was “driving reckless” and “swerved”, causing the tire to pop off in the SUV.

They ended up pulling over “because I was upset and wanted to get out of the vehicle." Jackson said she didn’t want Cassidy to drive anymore. But Cassidy continued to drive until they got to a farm.

She was seated in the middle seat at the back at this point, she testified, between Kiora and Eric. The alcohol was making her feel tired, she said.

The next thing she remembers is driving into the farm and seeing someone on the right side mowing the lawn.

Jackson recalled trying to look for her phone. She said she didn’t remember much after that.

“I knew something was wrong just being there,” said Jackson. She said she remembered someone smashing the windshield. She was still in the middle of the back seat at the time. Colten was in the front passenger seat, she confirmed.

She also remembered Cassidy and Eric getting out of the vehicle and starting running.

After they ran, she said she heard a voice say, “Go get the gun.” She said she saw a younger looking man walking inside the house.

She also recalled seeing someone go into the garage and come out with a handgun. The person was in the garage for about a minute. When she saw him again, he “came directly to the window, up to the window.”

“He came like walking behind the driver,”she said.

Jackson then described the shots, and testified there were four shots. The first shot — “I believe”, she said — was towards Boushie.

She said two shots were fired toward Eric and Cassidy, who were “just running.” But she didn’t know where they were. She believed Stanley shot twice at them, and that the first and second shots were actually fired at Boushie. She also said the person shooting at the car was “very close.”

Following the lunch break Jackson testified about waking up Kiora, and that Kiora reacted to Boushie being shot.

Jackson also described Colten “falling out” of the front side of the vehicle. Her testimony was that Boushie had fallen out of the passenger side door, contradicting earlier testimony that he had been dragged out of the driver’s side.

She also said she was crying for a while.

Jackson also testified about punching Mrs. Stanley, the mother, afterwards. It ended when Kiora told her to stop.

Jackson also testified she didn’t see any guns in the vehicle and didn’t see any shooting that morning. She said she didn’t pick up a gun that day.

Jackson testified she ended up walking down the road and heard “a chopper coming."

As for who the person was that shot Boushie, she described him as an “older man,” she said.

Defence lawyer Scott Spencer then went to work painting Jackson as unreliable, getting Jackson to admit she didn’t remember the checking of vehicles, didn’t remember a gun was in the vehicle, and didn’t remember a gun falling out of the vehicle.

Jackson maintained she didn’t see any shooting of rifles that day, said she didn’t do any shooting, and also testified that after the shooting Boushie fell out of the SUV, not dragged out as other witnesses testified earlier in the trial.

Spencer also painted Jackson as a liar, attacking her statement given to police at the North Battleford detachment. Spencer grilled Jackson for not mentioning the handgun in her initial statement to police.

Spencer also grilled Jackson for giving a statement that claimed she saw a woman, not a man, holding a gun.

When asked if she had lied to police Jackson admitted on the stand she “didn’t tell them the whole truth.”

She admitted what was in her first statement is “not the same as I’m saying now.”

“Maybe I was just scared. It's understandable. It's not something I see every day - someone getting shot. I was confused a lot of the time.”

After seeing a picture of Stanley in the media, she said, she started remembering things.

When asked about the handgun, Jackson said she was not comfortable describing how the gun was being held. “Or it didn’t happen, you didn’t see it,” said Spencer.

Spencer asked about other people she made statements to, mentioning the FSIN.

“Would it strike you as odd that there was this separate investigation?” Spencer asked. Jackson admitted yes.

Spencer then tried to get Jackson to explain how Boushie was shot in the left side of the head when he was facing the passenger side.

She also took issue with the interrogation.

“He made it seem like I did something wrong,” Jackson said of the RCMP officer interrogating her on Aug. 10. Spencer pointed out that by this point she had been granted immunity from prosecution.

Spencer was dismissive of her police statement, saying none of what she saying in court was in there. He then suggested she got together with the other witnesses to craft a story.

“Did you get together with any of the other witnesses and talk about what happened?”

Jackson said she talked to Kiora.

When asked if she spoke to their family lawyer Chris Murphy, she didn’t remember, but said she did speak to Sheldon Wuttunee about what happened. Spencer accused her of making up the story up after the fact.

Spencer suggested the real reason the group wanted to get off the Red Pheasant reserve that Aug. 9 day was because police were looking for stolen vehicles on the reserve.

Shortly after the afternoon break, Spencer wrapped up his cross examination of Jackson and the last witness of the day was called to the stand.

Called up was Greg Williams, a firearms expert based out of Ottawa. His expertise includes firearms identification, the mechanism of firearms. He says he has testified six times as an expert prior to this case.

He examined the .22 rifle as well as the Tokarev pistol. The .22 was damaged and would not fire on its own, but was classified as a firearm. The Russian pistol that Stanley had fired, the Tokarev TT-33, is a restricted firearm, a handgun, and not a prohibited firearm. He noted the pistol didn’t discharge a bullet without the trigger having to be pulled.

The expended cartridge cases were compared to the tests fired out of the pistol, and said it was the same class, the same caliber, and were “found to agree significantly.”

The most important expert opinion Williams provided was on the shock discharge testing done to the pistol. He said he dropped the gun in six different cubic orientations onto the mat to see if the hammer had fallen. In all those tests, there was no discharge.

With respect to Boushie, Williams testified gunshot damage was found on one part of the hood and two areas of the jacket.

Of importance, Williams testified that he could not calculate how close the pistol was to Boushie when it was fired.

On the three expended cartridge cases, Williams testified one of the cartridge cases has an "unusual bulge" to it. This was the cartridge case found on the dash of the grey Ford Escape.

It was "indicative that something unusual happened during firing", Williams said, and "warranted further analysis."

But in his tests, he wasn't able to reproduce it. He said he considered a number of possible scenarios, including a mechanical malfunction, defective ammunition with a hang fire being an example, that the cartridge was fired in a gun with a different size barrel, that there might have been a barrel obstruction, and the possibility that the slide was blocked.

On hang fires, Williams was asked about whether he had experienced a hang fire in his career as a firearms specialist. No, he had not, he said. He also said a delayed discharge would not account a bulge in the cartridge alone; it would also require a cartridge to be "out of battery, out of position." 

Williams also responded in the affirmative when Burge asked if there had to be a distinct pulling of the trigger for there to be a firing.

Williams was set to go back on the stand for cross-examination Friday morning.

In speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, prosecutor Chris Browne indicated the Crown was almost finished calling witnesses.

“We have a little bit of evidence to go tomorrow, and then everything will go to the defence side of this,” said Browne. He confirmed the Crown was “looking at possibly closing the Crown case tomorrow. We’ll find out tomorrow how that goes.”

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