It was an emotional day in North Battelford’s provincial courthouse as the preliminary hearing for accused murderer Gerald Stanley got underway Monday.
The hearing, which could last up to four days, will determine whether Stanley will face trial for second-degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie last summer.
Boushie, who was 22, was shot and killed Aug. 9 while riding in an SUV that went onto a farm near Biggar, Sask. Another person in the SUV has said they were heading home to the Red Pheasant First Nation after an afternoon of swimming when they got a flat tire and sought help.
The details of the hearings are under a publication ban until the court case is concluded.
“This is standard. This is to help ensure Mr. Stanley gets a fair trial and that the evidence in a preliminary trial is not widely publicized. You don’t want to contaminate the jury pool,” said Chris Murphy, the lawyer for the Boushie family, outside court.
RCMP closed the road outside the courthouse Monday morning. A few members of the Boushie family held signs stating, “Every life matters” and “No material things are worth a life” during the lunch break.
Murphy noted it was the most security he had ever seen for a hearing during his 15-year career.
“The family members are here in a peaceful way to just engage in the process, so I don’t know what the security is for,” he said.
“(The family) is here to watch … and there’s just nothing to suggest there’s going to be any sort of violent uprising here today.”
Boushie’s killing ignited racial tension in Saskatchewan. There have been large rallies outside court when Stanley made previous appearances.
But there were no crowds Monday, RCMP left keeping a perimeter around a quiet stretch of road.
Overflow seating was provided in another courtroom, connected by a live video feed, to accommodate all the people in attendance.
Boushie’s family filled the right half of the main courtroom, where many in the crowd stared at Stanley. The accused sat forward in his seat and listened to the evidence against him.
Overcome by emotion and sobbing, Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, and his brother, William, had to step out of the courtroom. When William returned, he rocked back and forth with clasped hands.
Murphy noted it’s difficult for the family to hear evidence presented at the preliminary hearing.
“I think it’s difficult for anybody to watch the evidence that occurred today and that’s just if you’re not a family member,” he said outside the courthouse.
“So I think if you compound that basically by a thousand times and you probably understand what the family’s going through.”
— Chris Vandenbreekel (@Vandecision) April 3, 2017
Stanley’s lawyer, Scott Spencer, said the process is extremely hard for his client as well.
“This is extremely stressful, extremely difficult,” he said outside court. “The tragedy’s not lost on anybody. The family’s in the courtroom suffering and you know that’s tough on everybody.”
Stanley has pleaded not guilty and is out on bail. He sat quietly in court Monday next to Spencer.
When he left the courtroom some Boushie family members and friends jeered, calling Stanley “murderer.”
Stanley continued on, getting into the passenger side of his lawyer’s vehicle.
Crown Prosecutor Bill Burge suggested the preliminary hearings would wrap up Thursday, but the courtroom is booked through to Friday.
650 CKOM reporter Chris Vandenbreekel is covering the hearing from North Battleford. Follow him on Twitter for live updates.
– With files from Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press.