A teenage witness, who was driving the SUV Colten Boushie was riding in on the day of the 22-year-old's death, said he heard a bullet pass close by his ear but admitted to lying in previous statements.
Farmer Gerald Stanley, 56, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. His trial, which has attracted a huge amount of public attention, began Monday at Battleford's Court of Queen's Bench and is scheduled to run until mid-February.
This morning the jury heard evidence from Cassidy Cross-Whitstone, 18. After a morning spent drinking heavily and swimming, his group of friends — including Boushie, Eric Meechance, Belinda Jackson and Kiora Wuttunee — stopped at two farms where he and Meechance attempted to steal vehicles, he testified. At the first stop, Cross-Whitstone said the group simply drove through the yard, but at the second farm he said he tried to break a truck window with the butt of his .22-calibre rifle.
By the time the group arrived at Gerald Stanley's farm in their grey Ford Escape, Cross said he had "snapped out of" his drunken haze and realized they needed help fixing a flat tire, which was getting progressively worse.
"I was like 'What the hell am I doing?,'" Cross-Whitstone testified. "I decided I was going to ask for help at the next farm."
Cross-Whitstone said Meechance got out of the SUV in Stanley's farmyard and tried to start a quad, but the group quickly heard shouting and someone smashed the SUV's front window, sending glass flying toward his face. He tried to drive away, he said, but the flat caused their Ford Escape to strike a parked vehicle. Meechance took off running, Cross-Whitstone said, and he followed close behind. As he ran, Cross-Whitstone said he heard two gunshots.
"I heard a bullet right beside my right ear... it kind of hurt my ear," he said. "I heard a ricochet ... Ding, up in the air."
Cross-Whitsone said he called for Meechance to wait for him, but Meechance told him "You're on your own." After fleeing the Stanley farm, he said he decided to stop at the next property for assistance, where a farmer gave him a ride home.
"I was just trying to ask for help," he said. "I knew I didn't do wrong."
On cross-examination, defence lawyer Scott Spencer aggressively questioned Cross-Whitestone about inconsistencies between his testimony this morning and the statements he gave to the RCMP and at the preliminary hearing. Cross-Whitstone gave several different answers about his level of intoxication, Spencer said, ranging from sober to "hammered" and "black-out" drunk.
Cross-Whitstone also gave different answers about who owned the .22 rifle, Spencer pointed out. The 18-year-old told the RCMP nothing about a rifle, he said. At the preliminary hearing he indicated the rifle belonged to Meechance, and today he said the rifle was his.
The young man also told RCMP he believed the two shots he heard were "warning shots" fired "into the air," Spencer noted, while today he said they passed close enough to hear the bullets in flight.
Confronted with the significant inconsistencies by Spencer, Cross-Whitstone said he lied in previous statements because he was trying to protect himself and his friends.
"I was scared for myself and I was scared for the people there," Cross-Whitstone said. "I was young, I was stupid, and I've changed a lot since that happened and I'm willing to face the consequences."
Cross-Whitestone told the court the .22 rifle was not loaded when he attempted to break the truck's window, despite using the weapon for target practice earlier in the day. When asked how the rifle came to be loaded (it was found by RCMP with a round chambered and five in the attached tube magazine), Cross suggested it was loaded after the shooting.
"Maybe somebody at the Gerald Stanley farm put it in the gun and put it beside Colten," he said.
Spencer asked if he was seriously suggesting the rifle was loaded by a resident of the Stanley farm, Cross-Whitestone said he was simply presenting a theory.
This morning Crown prosecutor William Burge also presented an agreed-upon statement of facts to the jury, which consisted largely of evidence collected by the RCMP and during Boushie's autopsy. According to the agreed statement, Boushie's blood contained about 300 mg of alcohol per 100 ml during his autopsy, and Stanley's hands and face tested positive for gunshot residue.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Commenting on this story is closed now that the matter is before the court.
On Twitter: @TaylorMacP
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