I can think of few criminal cases that exposed Canada’s racial divide more than the Colten Boushie case has.
That divide widened when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould chimed in expressing disappointment that “we” have to do better.
The story isn’t going away anytime soon.
On Tuesday, the Civilian Review & Complaints Commission for the RCMP announced they have initiated an investigation of the RCMP’s original investigation to determine if it was conducted reasonably and whether race played a role.
That afternoon CBC published an online report with the headline, “RCMP ‘sloppy’ and ‘negligent’ in investigating Colten Boushie’s death, say independent experts.”
The report quotes several “independent” experts who concluded the RCMP investigation was seriously flawed and the organization “needs a lot more training.”
The criticism centered on several specific areas;
- Failure to protect the crime scene
- Blood spatter evidence
- Gun shot residue
- Stanley’s arrest and processing
One of the experts identified in the report is Michael Davis, who the report described as a, “Toronto based veteran of homicide investigations.”
Prior to becoming a private investigator, Davis completed 32 years service with the Toronto Police Department, more than half that time was spent assigned to the Homicide Squad.
As such, Davis has the ability to identify meaningful, critical deficiencies in police investigations.
Failure to Protect the Crime Scene
The article indicates that when RCMP attended Stanley’s farm on August 9, 2016, Boushie was found face down on the ground in a pool of blood. The report indicates he was laying outside of the driver’s door of a Ford SUV.
It seems crime scene photographs were not taken until after darkness fell.
The photographs showed significant blood staining on the driver’s seat where Boushie was alleged to have sat when he was shot and killed.
When the RCMP left the scene for the night, they failed to protect the vehicle or surrounding area.
Police did not return to the crime scene until August 11.
(I suspect the delay was due to the need to secure a criminal code search warrant authorizing the collection of evidence and processing of the crime scene.)
By the time they returned, over 40 millimetres of rain had fallen and soaked the vehicle. Significant blood evidence had washed away along with any potential gunshot residue.
“Your main concern is preserving the evidence, preserving the scene,” Davis told CBC indicating the failure to do so was unacceptable.
The photographs taken by the RCMP were deemed inadequate largely due to the poor lighting conditions, poor angles and the failure to use proper forensic techniques when capturing the images.
The failure to protect the SUV was a serious oversight in the investigation. The vehicle should have been properly protected or secured at the scene, or better yet, removed to a garage or laboratory for forensic examinations.
Ultimately, an assessment has to be made regarding the impact the potential lost evidence had on the case.
There’s more to talk about before we get there.
Blood Spatter Evidence
Blood spatter evidence is interpreted by experts who form opinions designed to aid the investigation by providing or refuting investigative theories.
Blood spatter can be interpreted to determine the type of weapon used, the degree of force used during a crime, movements of a victim or injured party or angles of a shooting or attack. It can also provide insight into the proximity of a victim and assailant.
Blood spatter evidence as is often called “junk science” and is a highly contentious aspect of forensic science.
In a 2009 report, the National Academies of Sciences indicated, “Uncertainties associated with bloodstain pattern analysis are enormous.” “Uncertainties associated with bloodstain pattern analysis are enormous.”
“Uncertainties associated with bloodstain pattern analysis are enormous.”
The CBC enlisted the services of Joe Slemko who they indicate has spent over twenty-five (25) years doing blood spatter analysis. Slemko described the RCMP’s failure to protect the scene as “negligent.”
“The evidence is gone, the damage is done,” Slemko said.
The CBC might have considered Mr. Slemko’s history with the RCMP before using him to conduct “independent” analysis on the case. His relationship with the RCMP seems to be somewhat contentious.
Slemko was described as an “amateur” by RCMP lawyer David Butcher after he provided his opinion at an RCMP shooting inquest in 2007.
Butcher pointed out Slemko was charged twice for insubordination by the Edmonton Police Service during his twenty (20) year career.
Slemko was criticized for failing to note certain evidence in his investigative report.
“It was a stupid mistake, wasn’t it?” Butcher said challenging Slemko.
“Yes, it was a stupid mistake,” Slemko admitted after being reprimanded by the presiding coroner.
Reports indicate the RCMP wrote a letter of complaint about Slemko to the Edmonton Police Service.
The decision to use him as an expert in this case is questionable.
Gunshot residue or GSR is another form of forensic evidence often called “junk science.”
GSR is residue deposited on the hands and clothing of someone who discharges a firearm, or is in proximity to a firearms discharge.
GSR is composed of burnt or unburnt particles from the primer, propellant or fragments from the projectile, cartridge or firearm.
GSR analysis can determine if someone discharged a firearm and may also help with establishing the distance from which a firearm may have been fired.
Gun shot residue or GSR is another form of forensic evidence often called “junk science.”
GSR analysis can be helpful in providing evidence to identify contact or close contact gunshot wounds.
The CBC report is critical of the RCMP for failing to test the SUV for GSR.
(Given we know Boushie was shot in the driver’s seat, I would suggest the results of the GSR test would not be all that enlightening.)
The report indicates Stanley’s clothing was another potential source of both blood spatter and GSR, both of which, the report suggests, could help determine his distance from Boushie when the shot was fired.
The report indicates, “But the RCMP never seized Stanley’s clothes.”
(Given we know Stanley fired the shot that killed Boushie GSR tests on his clothing would not be tremendously enlightening. Stanley’s distance from Boushie when the shot was fired was not a contentious issue.)
Stanley’s Arrest & Processing
The RCMP took Stanley into custody and conveyed him to the nearest Detachment where he was photographed and released.
He returned the following day to be interviewed.
“You’re telling me that he was immediately released no sooner than getting to the Detachment? I’d say that’s not much of an investigation.” Davis said.
The CBC report points out the RCMP did not ensure an experienced homicide investigator conducted Stanley’s interrogation.
Boushie family lawyer, Chris Murphy suggests the RCMP’s failure to secure a seasoned homicide interrogator calls into question their dedication to the investigation.
“My honestly held belief is that the RCMP in Saskatchewan either does not know how to properly conduct a murder investigation — or that, in this case, they made the decision not to dedicate sufficient resources to it,” said Chris Murphy.
Let the conspiracy theories abound.
The Proper Protocol – Gerald Stanley
It seems errors in judgement were made during Mr. Stanley’s processing.
Police procedures should have dictated the seizure of his external clothing and footwear. He definitely should have been interrogated before leaving the RCMP Detachment.
It’s difficult to make an assessment regarding Stanley’s interrogation as we have no information regarding the interrogator’s qualifications or experience.
The mere fact he was a Constable, “the lowest rank among RCMP members,” certainly doesn’t preclude him from being qualified to conduct the interrogation.
Police Officers holding the rank of Constable in the Winnipeg Police Service Homicide Unit have conducted many successful homicide interrogations.
The Final Analysis
Were there errors and oversights made during the Colten Boushie shooting investigation?
Did those errors impact the result in the Gerald Stanley murder trial? “The experts CBC consulted agreed that errors were made, but did not conclude it would have changed the outcome of the trial.”
“The experts CBC consulted agreed that errors were made, but did not conclude it would have changed the outcome of the trial.”
That point is conceded in the CBC story;
“The experts CBC consulted agreed that errors were made, but did not conclude it would have changed the outcome of the trial.”
Issues related to the blood spatter, GSR, the seizure of Stanley’s clothing, the interrogation and noted forensic examinations essentially became moot when Mr. Stanley’s defence team readily admitted Stanley shot and killed Colten Boushie.
Had he denied shooting Boushie, that evidence may have been critical.
It’s clear, none of the results associated to these examinations would have offered any substantial evidence to impact the trial.
The trail was about motive or lack thereof.
Stanley took the position the shooting was accidental while the prosecution argued it was an intentional act.
The jury believed the defence.
So what was the point of the CBC article?
Retired Winnipeg Police Service Homicide Sergeant Tom Anderson thinks he knows.
Just another example of race baiting by Canada’s Federally funded news agency says the retired Homicide Sergeant.
This issue of race is listed at number four (4) in the Civilian Review & Complaints Commission (CRCC) terms of reference;
“Whether the conduct of the RCMP members or other persons appointed or employed under Part I of the RCMP Act involved in this matter amounted to discrimination on the basis of race or perceived race.”
Those of us with institutional knowledge regarding these matters suspect issues related to lack of experience, supervisory control, staffing, resources, rural policing, outdoor crime scene and ready access to specialists will have more to do with the errors made during this investigation than anything else.
Of course, that is yet to be determined.
We’ll see how it all shakes out.
March 7, 2018
Deputy Attorney General Anthony Gerein, head of Public Prosecutions announced there will be no Crown appeal of the not-guilty verdict in the Colten Boushie case.
March 12, 2018
The CBC admits to including fake news in their story criticizing the RCMP investigation into the Colten Boushie case.
The following information was obtained from a screen capture on their original story;
Court of Queen’s Bench – R v Stanley SKQB 367
The Court of Queen’s Bench decision in R v Stanley dated 2017-12-13 completely refutes a number of allegations contained in the CBC story.
Those allegations include;
- The allegation Stanley was released after his arrest without being interrogated
- The allegation Stanley’s clothing worn at the time of the shooting were not seized
- The allegation the RCMP assigned a low ranking member to conduct the interrogation – suggesting the interrogator was not qualified and it did not receive the degree of importance it should have. (The inference being racism or investigative indifference factored into the decision making process, a common accusation directed at police agencies.)
The decision irrefutably renders the CBC allegations false.
- “At 2:09 a.m. on August 10, 2016, RCMP officers awakened Mr. Stanley to take swabs of his hands and to seize his clothing. He was provided with replacement clothing. He then remained in his cell, alone, until 1:20 p.m. on August 10, 2016, when he was escorted into an interview room at which time he met Cst. Gullacher for the first time.“
- “The interview started at approximately 1:42 p.m. and concluded at approximately 5:58 p.m. – a little over four hours later.”
- “Shortly after that, at approximately 5:58 p.m., the interview ended. It is apparent that Cst. Gullacher could see the writing on the wall and was prepared to accept that, despite his efforts, Mr. Stanley was not going to provide him with details of the incident under investigation.”
The presiding Justice referred to the interrogation as “skilled” and “persistent.”
- The Justice indicated Constable Gullacher is a twelve (12) year member of the RCMP.
The fact he only held the rank of Constable certainly doesn’t negate the fact he was an experienced veteran of the RCMP.
Stanley’s defence alleged Constable Gullacher was persistent in his questioning and eroded Stanley’s will to remain silent. The officer used several themes during the interrogation that included;
- suggesting he needed to provide a statement within 24 hours of his arrest
- playing word games
- providing inaccurate legal advice
- refusal to provide further consultations with counsel
- using a false narrative respecting a fabricated sexual assault case
The Justice went on to address each of these themes and ruled Constable Gullacher stayed within the boundaries of a proper and lawful interrogation.
Contrary to the CBC reporting, it’s clear a tremendous effort was made to properly interrogate Mr. Stanley.
The CBC News Story – Fake News
It’s important to note that any journalist writing a story regarding the Stanley case should have had access to the information published in the Court of Queen’s Bench decision.
It is unclear why the CBC would publish a story full of patently false information.
It’s important to note, the experts quoted in the story came to their conclusions based on the false information provided to them by the CBC.
The decision to alter the facts perplexes me.
CBC critics accuse the public broadcaster of race baiting and intentionally pushing a false narrative designed to divide the Canadian public along racial lines.
It seems the allegations may have substance.
I’m just not sure where it gets them.
CBC News – Saskatoon