Twelve jurors and two alternates were told to put biases aside and remain impartial during the first day of Gerald Stanley’s second-degree murder trial.
Their task will be a difficult one, as the case has generated a huge amount of public and media attention. Stanley is accused of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie, and the case has fuelled fiery debates on both racism and rural crime despite no clear indication that either was a factor in the shooting.
The morning was spent selecting jurors from the pool of 750 people who were summoned. Proceedings had to be moved from the Battleford Court of Queen’s Bench to a nearby recreation centre simply to accommodate the huge number of potential jurors. Chief Justice Martel Popescul spent the bulk of the day evaluating the arguments of potential jurors who asked to be excused from service for personal reasons. More than 40 jurors were excused, for reasons ranging from health issues to a previous career in law enforcement overseas.
During the selection process, each possible juror was asked to make eye contact with Stanley, who sat calmly behind a small table wearing dark clothes and work boots, facing away from the gallery. Despite the huge pool of potential jurors, no visibly-Indigenous members were selected, a fact which drew stern criticism from Jade Tootoosis, cousin to the late Boushie.
“It was really difficult to sit there today and watch every single visible Indigenous person by challenged by the defence,” Tootoosis told reporters. “It’s not surprising, but extremely frustrating.”
Tootoosis said many of Boushie’s other family members declined to attend this morning, as they felt “a decision had already been made.”
Scott Spencer, lawyer for Stanley, declined to comment on the defence team’s selection strategy. The defence, Spencer said, is focusing on the facts at this stage. After a short break, Popescul delivered his opening instructions the jury, ordering them to remain objective throughout the proceedings. The jurors must decide the case based only on the evidence heard at trial, the judge emphasized, and not on any preconceived notions.
“Do not be influenced by sympathy for, or prejudice against, anyone,” Popescul said. “Keep an open mind.”
Popescul explained that Stanley is presumed innocent, and is not required to prove anything during the trial. The burden of proving Stanley’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt rests solely with the Crown, he told the jury. Popescul further instructed the jurors not to discuss the case with anyone outside the jury room, and not to read or view news coverage of the trial.
“This case has attracted considerable attention in the media,” he said. “You must ignore it completely.”
The jurors, made up of seven women and five men, are expected to hear the first evidence in the case tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. A total of 10 possible witnesses were named, including Stanley’s son and several police officers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been closed to commenting because the matter is still before the court.
--With files from CKOM
On Twitter: @TaylorMacP
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