Gerald Stanley is expected to testify in his own defence, his lawyer told the jury at Stanley's ongoing murder trial.
Stanley has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie, which occurred Aug. 9, 2016. The trial began Jan. 29 at the Battleford Court of Queen's Bench.
This morning, Feb. 5, the 12 jurors heard the opening statement of defence lawyer Scott Spencer, who called the shooting a "freak accident" which occurred "in the course of an unimaginably scary situation."
Spencer said Stanley was justified when he armed himself with a handgun and fired warning shots during his confrontation of Boushie and the other occupants of the badly-damaged Ford Escape that drove onto his farmyard. Several occupants testified the group was highly intoxicated and attempted to steal a truck from a previously-visited farm.
"Colten had a rifle between his legs, essentially pointing at Gerry (Gerald). But Gerry wasn't aware of that," Spencer said. "This isn't about using lethal force to repel a threat."
Spencer said Stanley approached the SUV after firing the warning shots because from his perspective, the vehicle was a potentially-deadly threat. Stanley could not see his wife, Spencer said, and believed she may have been under the vehicle. Spencer said Stanley removed the magazine from his pistol and believed it to be unloaded when a type of misfire called a "hang-fire" occurred, firing a round through Boushie's head and neck, killing him.
"He believes his wife is under that truck, so he's got to do something," Spencer said. "What would you do?"
A hang-fire, two firearms experts previously testified, is a delay between the trigger pull and the round firing caused by defective ammunition. Both experts noted Stanley fired Czech-made surplus ammunition manufactured in the 1950s in his Tokarev TT-33 handgun.
The shooting never would have happened, Spencer said, if the group in the SUV had not created what he described as a "high-intensity, fear-filled situation."
"You have to view it from Gerry's perspective," Spencer said. "What he felt, what he thought when he was faced with this sudden intrusion. The fear. The unknown.
"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."
Firearms expert John Ervin testified standard procedure for a hang-fire is to point the weapon in a safe direction for 60 seconds before removing the round. This, Spencer said, was not an option for his client.
"He didn't have the opportunity to wait 60 seconds," Spencer said. "The gun just went off."
Spencer's words echoed the testimony of Sheldon Stanley, Gerald's son. Sheldon said in the immediate aftermath of the shooting he saw his father standing next to the SUV holding a pistol in one hand and a magazine in the other. Sheldon said his father looked like he would be sick, and told him the gun "just went off."
Gerald Stanley will speak in his own defence, Spencer told the jury at the conclusion of his statement, in order to explain what happened in his own words.
"Gerry's going to testify," Spencer said. "He has to explain it to you."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Commenting on this story is closed now that the matter is before the court.
On Twitter: @TaylorMacP
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