One of the most anticipated trials in Saskatchewan's history began this morning in Battleford, but not at the courthouse.
The jury selection process got underway this morning for the trial of Gerald Stanley, the Biggar-area farmer accused of second-degree murder in connection with the 2016 shooting death of Colten Boushie.
A pool of 750 potential jurors were summoned to Battleford for the opening of the trial, and in order to accommodate everyone the proceedings were moved from Queen's Bench courthouse to the nearby Alex Dillabough Centre, a local recreation centre with a gymnasium. Before entering, the potential jurors had to pass through an airport-style security checkpoint manned by numerous armed deputy sheriffs. Under an unused basketball hoop and florescent lights, Chief Justice Martel Popescul began the proceedings this morning at 10 a.m.
Stanley, dressed in a dark button-up shirt, slacks and brown work boots, confirmed he understood the second-degree charge with a brief, "yeah," before confirming his plea: "Not guilty." Stanley showed very little emotion this morning, speaking only to confirm his plea and to share a few whispers with his defence lawyers Scott Spencer and Dustin Gillanders. At several points he could be seen drumming his fingers on the sides of his chair as he sat through the slow-paced proceedings behind a folding plastic table adorned only with a water bottle. Similarly, the large crowd showed little reaction to Stanley's presence when he took his place in the satellite courtroom. No gasps, boos or jeers were heard, despite the visible and vocal protests which accompanied all of Stanley's previous appearances.
The morning was largely standard procedure for jury trials, with Popescul delivering instructions to the potential jurors explaining what their role will be if they are among the 12 members or two alternates selected. After the roll was called, and 169 potential jurors confirmed they answered their summons, Popescul explained the reasons why they might be excused, including health issues, previous dealings with the victim or accused, holding elected office, or difficulty understanding English.
The remainder of the morning saw the judge listening and responding to a wide variety of excuse requests from more than 50 of the possible jurors. Although he welcomed the public to attend and observe the proceedings, Popescul cautioned against any behaviour which could affect the trial, including carrying signs or wearing clothing expressing opinions about the case. Popescul said 10 witnesses are expected to give evidence during the 14-day trial. Included on the witness list are four law-enforcement officers, Gerald Stanley's son Sheldon, and Eric Meechance, who was with Boushie on Stanley's farm at the time of the 22-year-old's death.
paNOW and battlefordsNOW will bring you updates throughout the trial.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been closed to commenting because the matter is still before the court.
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