Missing witness and Reddit posts: What the Stanley trial jury didn’t hear

By paNOW Staff
February 8, 2018 - 5:00pm

During a trial by jury, the media is not permitted to report on discussions that take place while the jury is absent from the courtroom. Now that the jury has begun its deliberations in the murder trial of Gerald Stanley, however, we are free to report on what jurors didn’t hear.

Eyewitness was a no-show

One of the occupants of the SUV that was carrying Colten Boushie at the time of the 22-year-old’s shooting in 2016 did not show up to court the day she was scheduled to appear as a witness.

Kiora Wuttunee, who was in a relationship with Boushie according to other testimony, was on the Crown’s witness list from the beginning of the trial. With the jury absent from the courtroom, Crown prosecutor William Burge said Wuttunee was not present, despite being personally served with a subpoena and attending the trial on previous days. Chief Justice Martel Popescul issued a warrant for Wuttunee’s arrest, though she never appeared on the witness stand.

Gallery cautioned about outbursts

At the beginning of the trial, Chief Justice Popescul acknowledged the significant public and media attention the trial has drawn. While the public is free to attend, Popescul said, he cautioned those in the gallery against doing anything that could interfere with the trial, including displaying signs or wearing slogans on their clothes.

“Observers must not conduct themselves in any way that could affect the court proceedings,” Popescul said.

His warning at the outset of the trial was not enough, however. On two separate occasions, and with the jury absent from the courtroom, Popescul cautioned the entire gallery against the “muttering” and “snickering” he heard from the crowd, most notably during Gerald Stanley’s own testimony.

“Some people in the gallery are not being passive observers,” he said. “This must stop.”

Although he had to issue multiple cautions with the jury out of the courtroom, Popescul noted that the majority of spectators were well-behaved.

No perjury warning for witness

Defence lawyer Scott Spencer requested that Belinda Jackson, who was in the SUV with Colten Boushie at the time of the shooting, be cautioned about perjury (making a false, intentionally-misleading statement while under oath or solemn affirmation).

During her testimony, Spencer drew the jury’s attention to significant inconsistencies between Jackson’s previous statements to police and the evidence she gave at the trial. When speaking to police Jackson insisted she did not see or hear the shooting, Spencer noted, though she described seeing a man shoot Bousie during her testimony at the trial.

“It’s beyond believe that you saw somebody get shot and you wouldn’t tell the police,” Spencer told Jackson during cross-examination.

During a break, with the jury out of the courtroom, Spencer requested Popescul caution Jackson about perjury. Spencer said he had never made the request before in his legal career, but believed the warning was justified based on the significant inconsistencies.

Popescul said he was not prepared to issue the warning requested by Spencer, though later in the trial he instructed jurors to employ their own judgement and common sense when deciding how much weight to give testimony from witnesses who made inconsistent statements.

Defence tried to introduce Reddit posts

During his cross-examination of the Crown’s firearms expert Gregory Williams, Spencer asked if he would offer his expert opinion on anecdotes Spencer had printed from the Internet.

Williams was testifying about hang-fires, a type of misfire caused by faulty ammunition which creates a delay between the trigger pull and the round discharging. The firearms expert said hang-fires were extremely rare, and tended to last “half a second at the most.” Spencer said there were numerous accounts of hang-fires lasting much longer, and offered the witness the printed pages for his opinion. This raised an objection from Burge, and the jury left the room while the matter was decided.

Chief Justice Popescul questioned the source of the printed materials, and Spencer said he had retrieved the posts from Reddit, a popular collection of online forums.

“I have many concerns about the reliability,” Popescul said, adding that some online information is precisely accurate while “other information is pure garbage.”

Popescul said he was not willing to allow the posts to be admitted into evidence. The online users were identified only by usernames, and there was no way for the court to verify whether their stories were first-hand accounts or hearsay, the judge said.

Although he had no further questions for Williams after court resumed, Spencer later called two witnesses – Wayne Popowich and Nathan Voinorosky – who presented personal anecdotes about hang-fires lasting multiple seconds.


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

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Boushie family supporters gather as jury prepares to deliberate

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