BATTLEFORD, Sask. — An Indigenous man who died in a shooting on a Saskatchewan farm was the victim of "a freak accident that occurred in the course of an unimaginably scary situation," court was told Monday.
Gerald Stanley's lawyer was making his opening arguments before a jury at the man's second-degree murder trial. Scott Spencer told jurors that 22-year-old Colten Boushie's death wasn't justified, but they must put themselves in Stanley's shoes.
He said the Stanley family faced intruders on their farm near Biggar, Sask., in August 2016, which created a panic situation.
"So is it unreasonable to fire warning shots when the intruders have tried to steal, taken a run at you with their vehicle, crashed into your vehicle — from Gerry's perspective intentionally — almost run over your wife?" Spencer told court in Battleford, Sask..
"Is it reasonable to fire warning shots to get them to just leave? That's what it comes down to in many ways."
Boushie was sitting in the driver's seat of a grey Ford Escape when he was shot in the back of the head.
"This was not a justified death. This death is not justified legally or morally. It is never, never right to take somebody's life with a gun. But that's not what this case is about," Spencer said.
"This is really not a murder case at all. This is a case about what can go terribly wrong when you create a situation which is really of the nature of a home invasion. For farm people, your yard is your castle and that's part of the story here."
Court has heard an SUV carrying five people had a flat tire and drove onto the Stanley farm. The driver testified the group had been drinking during the day and tried to break into a truck on a neighbouring farm, but went to the Stanley property in search of help with the tire.
Stanley's son has testified that on the day of the shooting, he and his father heard an ATV start and thought it was being stolen. The pair ran toward the SUV and threw a hammer at the windshield as the driver tried to leave the farm.
Sheldon Stanley said he went into the house to get his truck keys and heard two gunshots. He said he heard a third when he came back out. He told court he saw his father, looking sick, with a gun in his hand saying, "It just went off."
"You have to view it from Gerry's perspective and what he faced. The fear, the unknown. When you're in a situation where you have intruders and you don't have the luxury of being able to wait for police assistance. This case comes down to what's reasonable," Spencer said.
"It's not a self defence. What can you do to protect yourself in those circumstances? You can't use lethal force but is it reasonable to deal with the circumstance to protect you and your family?"
Spencer suggested Stanley's gun misfired.
"The tragedy is the gun just went off," he said, adding Stanley will take the stand to explain what happened from his perspective. "The young people aren't on trial but they created this panic situation.
"If they would have just stopped — stopped drinking, stopped drinking and driving, stopped breaking into people's places, stop vandalizing stuff, stop crashing into things. Just walk away."
The Crown wrapped up its case last week.
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