Danielle Smith: Gerald Stanley murder trial poses question ‘how far can you go to defend your property?’
The death of a 22-year-old Cree man in Saskatchewan has raised the spectre of racism, but the real issue, in this case, is how far someone is allowed to go to defend their property.
Colten Boushie, from the Red Pheasant First Nation, was a passenger in a vehicle that arrived on the farm of 56-year-old Gerald Stanley in 2016. A dispute occurred and Boushie ended up dead from a bullet wound to the head.
It was widely commented on that visible minorities were rejected from jury duty. But in at least one news story it was noted that middle-aged white men were excluded too.
I asked defence lawyer and legal commentator Ari Goldkind whether a fair trial is even possible with such polarization around race. If the court is going to assume that every minority is going to side with Boushie and every white guy is going to side with the accused, can you even get a true trial by your peers – which is what a jury is supposed to be?
Goldkind argued there are reasonable explanations for why a jury may not be as diverse as we’d expect; especially in remote, northern communities. It is often the reality that members of many First Nations communities don’t show up for jury duty and other jurors are able to beg off due to economic hardship.
Goldkind’s view was that this jury doesn’t look much different than you might expect for other trials for these reasons. He also gave examples to show that when left to do their work, juries are able to cut through a lot of the outside noise and deal with the facts of the case.
LISTEN: Danielle Smith and Ari Goldkind discuss the death of a Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan
I hope so. No one wants an outcome where if he is found guilty it is seen as bending to political correctness or if he is found innocent it is seen as a whitewash.
I believe the facts of this case should centre around whether people have the right to protect their property with lethal force.
Goldkind reminded me that the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities passed a policy calling on the government to allow more protections for those who defend their property in self-defence. I suspect while public sentiment may be on the landowner’s side, the law is not.
In the Karman Willis case, the 16-year-old was shot and killed after she and her friends decided to joyride, in two pickups, on the property of Weibo Ludwig at 4:30 a.m. on the morning of June 20, 1999. Because they couldn’t confirm who pulled the trigger, the public was never able to get a proper answer to the question of how much force someone is allowed to use to defend their property.
WATCH BELOW: Trial starts for Gerald Stanley, accused of shooting Colten Boushie
In 2012, farmer Brian Knight was given a suspended sentence on appeal after previously pleading guilty to criminal negligence when he shot someone who tried to steal his ATV in the middle of the night. In that case, the perpetrator didn’t die. The court recognized Knight’s right to attempt to apprehend the thief, but said that he shouldn’t have recklessly used a firearm to do it.
In 2016, landowner Eugene Dalton was found not guilty of aggravated assault and other charges after he shot a northern Alberta man in the arm as he and his friends tried to steal his ATV. He wounded Philip Janvier in the upper left arm and the court found there was no “intent” to harm in making its verdict.
Looking at these cases, I would think that Gerald Stanley would have a better chance of being found not guilty of wrongdoing if Colten Boushie hadn’t died.
Is property worth more than a person’s life? That’s what we will find out when the jury delivers its verdict.
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