Colten Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste and his uncle, Alvin Baptiste, have been vocal advocates for justice but also for calm. (Jason Warick) Screams and guttural moans echoed through the Red Pheasant Cree Nation band hall in August, 2016 during Colten Boushie’s funeral wake.
Boushie’s mother Debbie Baptiste and his grandmother or "kohkom" Verna Denny broke down frequently, crying out for their "Coco" while showing a visitor the shrine containing baby photos, spelling bee awards, firefighting equipment, beaded mocassins and other items.
Similar sounds filled a Battleford, Sask. courtroom Friday evening just seconds after a juror spoke the final words of Gerald Stanley’s murder trial: "not guilty."
The 56-year-old farmer was acquitted on on all charges after a two-week trial in Battleford, 130 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.
As Stanley was rushed out of court and into a waiting vehicle by security, several in the gallery swore and shouted.
Late Friday, emerging from a Boushie family smudging ceremony, Mylan Murdo whispered to a visitor, "We feel like Colten died again."
Denny was too pessimistic, too broken to attend the trial, relatives said. But Baptiste sat quietly through most of the often graphic testimony, exhibits and eventual verdict.
Baptiste, her brother Alvin and others had spent much of the past 18 months demanding "Justice for Colten," but also pleaded for peace as tensions rose.
"We all have to live together. We can’t live with hatred, passing it down through the generations," Alvin Baptiste said as vile, often racist social media posts swirled online.
They encouraged calm as hundreds showed up for rallies outside the courthouses during Stanley’s bail and preliminary hearings. They invited and welcomed North Battleford RCMP officers to the anniversary feast last August at Red Pheasant, and gifted officers with blankets. They said they were willing to give the justice system a chance. Jace Boushie, brother of Colten Boushie, left to right, Jade Tootoosis, cousin of Colten Boushie, and Alvin Baptiste, the uncle of Colten Boushie, attend a media event at the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs head office after the verdict. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press) That confidence appeared to erode on the trial’s first day. Jade Tootoosis and other family members watched as each Indigenous-looking juror was rejected through challenges by the defence team.
"The deck is stacked against us," Alvin Baptiste said, predicting an acquittal.
"Where is the First Nations say in this? We don’t have a voice."
Minutes before the verdict, Baptiste walked outside the courtroom and took a few deep breaths. Tightening his grip on the eagle feather he’d brought to court every day, he looked down at the floor, shook his head and said, "I knew this day was going to come. I have to be strong."
Stanley’s lawyer Scott Spencer had argued his handgun went off accidentally when he reached inside Boushie’s vehicle to turn it off, killing the 22-year-old with a single shot to the back of the head. The Stanley family has not spoken publicly about the case. Neither they nor Spencer has been available for comment since the verdict.
Chief Justice Martel Popescul had told jurors to avoid any publicity or conversations about the case. He told them they should be independent and not swayed by bias, passion, public opinion or political pressure.
Only the evidence matters, and a conviction requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt," Popescul told them. Gerald Stanley leaves the Court of Queen’s Bench out a back door with members of the RCMP after a jury delivered a verdict of not guilty of killing 22-year-old Colten Boushie. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press) Saskatoon lawyer Brian Pfefferle and others also noted deliberations are secret. No one but the seven women and five men on the jury know […]
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