Stanley Trial: Crown closes case, defence calls second gun expert

By Taylor MacPherson
February 2, 2018 - 5:16pm Updated: February 2, 2018 - 5:52pm

The Crown closed its case against Gerald Stanley early this afternoon, after calling eight witnesses over four days.

Stanley has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the 2016 shooting death of Colten Boushie, 22. Stanley's trial, which has attracted significant attention, began Monday at Battleford's Court of Queen's Bench.

After hearing detailed and highly-technical testimony from firearms expert Gregory Williams, Crown prosecutor William Burge said the Crown had no further evidence to present.

Defence lawyer Scott Spencer said he plans to call several witnesses during the trial. Spencer told the court his first was present in the courthouse already, so he requested and was granted permission to deliver his opening statement to the jury Monday.

Shot was not fired with normal trigger pull: defence's gun expert

Spencer called his first defence witness, firearms expert John Ervin, a former RCMP firearms instructor and armourer who said he has fired nearly a million rounds through a wide variety of firearms during his career. Ervin, like Williams, examined a cartridge casing fired through Stanley's Tokarev TT-33 handgun, which was found to be unusually deformed.

Ervin described the deformation as "a significant mis-shapen bulge near the case-head of the cartridge."

Earlier in the day, Williams presented several possible reasons for the bulge, including a mechanical malfunction or misfire, though he could not ultimately say what the cause was. The casing in question was found inside the SUV which was carrying Boushie when he arrived at Stanley's farmyard, while two other normal casings were found elsewhere in the yard.

When Gerald Stanley's son Sheldon testified earlier this week, he said in the immediate aftermath of the shooting his father told him the gun "just went off ... I bumped them and it just went off."

Ervin told the jury he concluded the bulge was due to the round discharging without being properly seated in the chamber. He said the location of the bulge on the side of the cartridge indicates the 7.62mm round was fired while the rear portion of the casing was about a centimetre outside the chamber (a state Ervin referred to as "out of battery").

"That cartridge was, at the time of ignition, 403 1000ths of an inch out of battery," Ervin said. "It had to be that far out in order for that case to expand to the larger portion of the chamber."

Stanley's pistol had a mechanical system which disconnected the trigger from the firing mechanism while the weapon was out of battery, Ervin testified, which meant the round was not fired with a normal trigger pull.

"The hammer could not strike the firing pin when it was that far out of battery," the firearms expert said. "The trigger disconnect would be engaged."

Despite the conclusions he reached about the unusual bulge in the casing, Ervin said during his testing he was not able to make the Tokarev fire a round with the cartridge so far out of proper position.

Hang-fire a possibility

Ervin presented two theories as to how the round was fired. The first possibility is a hang-fire, he said, which occurs when defective ammunition causes a delay between the trigger pull and the round discharging. The detonation could also have been caused by an external force striking the pistol's hammer or firing pin, he added. 

"Hang-fires are extremely rare," Ervin said, but are often associated with older ammunition. Poor quality-control, improper storage and temperature fluctuations can make hang-fires more likely, he noted.

According to previous testimony, Stanley's pistol was loaded with Czech-made surplus ammuniton manufactured in the 1950s and stored in his shop.

At the conclusion of the first week of the trial, Chief Justice Martel Popescul told the jurors the trial is moving at a quick pace, and may be concluded by the end of next week. On Monday morning the jury will hear Scott Spencer's opening statement.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been closed to commenting because the matter is still before the court.

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