Chief justice to hear argument for media to film portions of Gerald Stanley trial

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Saskatchewan’s Court of Queen’s Bench chief justice is set to hear arguments Tuesday about whether to allow the media to film inside the courtroom during the Gerald Stanley murder trial.

Stanley is charged with second-degree murder in the August 2016 death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie.

Five media companies — CTV, CBC, Global News, Postmedia and Aboriginal Peoples Television Network — have applied to record certain portions of the trial with three security-style cameras operated remotely. The application requests the media be allowed to record and broadcast live the judge’s and lawyers’ opening and closing remarks, the judge’s instructions to the jury, the verdict, remarks from the judge after the verdict and potential sentencing.

Chief Justice Martel Popescul, who is presiding over the trial and will decide on the cameras, would be able to turn the cameras off at any time.

Bill Johnson, the lawyer representing the media, argues the application is partly based on enhancing the administration of justice.

“They seek to assist this Court in fulfilling its responsibility to administer this important criminal case in the context of 2018 Saskatchewan society,” Johnson wrote in his submission.

Johnson also references the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and states the media’s use of cameras is a method of expression. He writes the media has identified the case as one with major social and justice interest and as one that is important for citizens of Saskatchewan and Canada.

“This major interest and importance, the Applicants submit, present this Court with an excellent opportunity to explain to Saskatchewan citizens how his Court administers its processes in a criminal jury trial,” Johnson writes.

Scott Spencer, the lawyer representing Stanley, is arguing for the application to be dismissed and says the application is not about openness and education, but entertainment.

He says cameras would have a negative impact on Stanley’s right to a fair trial and argued the court’s function is about truth-finding and inquiry. Spencer says by broadcasting only select portions of the trial, the media will not be providing insight into how that’s accomplished.

“Filming and broadcasting edited and selected portions of counsel arguments in an entertaining manner to create a greater spectacle runs the risk of further division and anger within the province,” Spencer writes.

When it comes to the freedom of expression argument, Spencer says there is no constitutional protected right to film and broadcast portions of a trial.

Crown prosecutor William Burge, on behalf of the attorney general, writes the attorney general also disagrees with the media’s application. The Boushie family is in support of cameras in the courtroom.

Stanley’s trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 29 and last three weeks in Battleford Court of Queen’s Bench.

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