RCMP have allegedly mishandled key evidence in the trial of Gerald Stanley, who stands charged with second-degree murder in the Aug. 9 death of Colten Boushie, 22.
Boushie died in a shooting on Stanley’s ranch near Biggar, Sask. So far, the best indication of what might have happened comes from information contained in a police document filed to obtain a warrant to search the Stanley farm.
According to the document, Boushie was one of five people in a 2003 Ford Escape that came onto the Stanley property around 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 9. Two men, Eric Meechance and Cassidy Whitstone, allegedly got out of the vehicle near the Stanley family’s ATV. Stanley and his family were drawn to the scene when they heard the ATV start, according to the document.
Stanley’s son allegedly told police his father looked sick after shooting Boushie and said the gun “just went off.”
At this point, Whitstone and Meechance allegedly got back into the Escape, which was riding on nothing but a rim on the front driver’s side. According to the police document, the Escape swerved in the direction of Stanely’s son as the driver tried to turn it around, causing Stanley’s son to smash out the windshield with a hammer he was carrying, Stanley is also alleged to have then kicked out the vehicle’s taillight.
Meechance and Whitstone allegedly took off running after the Escape crashed into another vehicle parked on the Stanley’s driveway. At this point, Stanley allegedly went to a shed where he grabbed and loaded a handgun. Stanley’s son allegedly ran inside the house to get his truck keys when the two men started running. He told police he heard two shots while he was inside, and a third shot once he came out.
According to the document, one of the women in the Escape told police Boushie had been in the backseat of the Escape with his girlfriend during the entire confrontation. She allegedly told officers Boushie climbed into the front after Meechance and Whitstone ran away, and was trying to start the vehicle when Stanley walked up to the driver’s side window and shot him in the back of the head. Stanley allegedly told police he fired two shots into the air meant to scare the intruders off, and that he killed Boushie by shooting him in the back of the head. Stanley’s son allegedly told police his father looked sick after shooting Boushie and said the gun “just went off.”
Chris Murphy, a Toronto-based criminal lawyer hired by the Boushie family, said he came to Saskatchewan in early September to meet the family, and to get a sense of where RCMP were at with their investigation. He said that within hours, he was able to learn RCMP had released the Escape to a towing company lot in the North End of Saskatoon.
Murphy said he went to the towing company’s lot and spoke to an attendant.
“They advised me that this vehicle was sitting out in the lot with all the other towed vehicles and that the inside of it was covered with blood and there was some damage to it,” he said.
Murphy said the SUV was then moved to an SGI salvage yard where it was set to be auctioned off. He said he contacted RCMP, told them of the situation, and urged them to re-seize the vehicle.
“Whether or not they’ve re-seized it, the continuity of the vehicle has been broken,” he said.
Murphy said he confirmed with police that no blood-spatter analysis was done before police let the SUV out of their custody, a potentially key test which could help determine how far away the shot which killed Boushie was fired from. Murphy said that based on the timing, it’s unlikely the defense ever got a chance to have independent experts analyze the vehicle, either.
“It’s a tremendous problem for the investigation and the prosecution as far as I’m concerned. And it’s a tremendous problem for the Boushie family who just wants to sleep well at night knowing that this investigation and prosecution are being conducted in a forthright and competent manner,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the RCMP’s snafu could very well mean Gerald Stanley never faces a trial.
“It could very well be that an application to stay these charges is brought because the state has lost or destroyed evidence, and you know, the application would have some merit depending on what the theory of the defense is at trial,” he said.
Murphy said such an outcome would be devastating for Boushie’s family.
“From the perspective of the Boushie family, imagine if this matter is not even heard on its merits at trial, because the charges have been stayed without even getting to learn what exactly happened on that farm on August 9, 2016,” he said.
Murphy said that to date, RCMP still haven’t told him where the SUV is now. He said this runs contrary to the Victim’s Bill of Rights brought in under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which requires victims to be kept informed about investigations.
“It was we who brought this to the attention of the Crown and the police…it was we who said ‘get it back,’ and having brought this to the attention of the Crown and police, they won’t tell us where it is,” he said.