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Jurors at murder trials are often asked to weave their way through tangled webs of evidence and reams of legal complexities before making their decisions.
As many Six Nations residents see it, though, there was nothing complex about the matter at the heart of the Peter Khill trial.
“An $1,800 truck is worth more than a life?” Doreen Silversmith said Wednesday.
A jury took less than 24 hours to find Khill not guilty of second-degree murder in connection with the Feb. 4, 2016 shooting death of Jon Styres.
Khill admitted to shooting and killing Styres, but argued that he did so in self-defence, which would not be considered murder. Styres was trying to steal Khill’s truck. Khill testified that he believed Styres had a gun and was pointing it at him.
As Khill is white and Styres is Indigenous, many observers have drawn parallels between this case and the trial earlier of this year of Gerald Stanley. Stanley shot and killed Colten Boushie, whose friends claimed they were on Stanley’s farm to get help for a flat tire. Stanley believed they were trying to steal an ATV.
Silversmith was one of several people who took part in a protest outside the Six Nations Justice Department following Wednesday’s verdict.
Many of them raised parallels between the Khill trial and the Stanley case – and then quickly added that there are plenty of other comparisons in Canadian legal history.
“I was really hoping, truly in my heart, that justice was going to be served – but I knew in the pit of my stomach … that it wouldn’t be,” said Terry-Lynn Brant.
“I’m very saddened to day to know that Canadian justice again – again – is showing its true colours. Over an $1,800 truck … somebody thinks that was worth taking a life for.”
Brant said events like the Khill verdict make her and other Indigenous people feel as though they are “thoroughly worthless” to other Canadians.
“He made some bad choices, but he didn’t deserve to die,” she said of Styres, who she described as her neighbour.
Relatives of Styres joined the protest for a period of time Wednesday afternoon.
The Six Nations Elected Council also put out a statement expressing “shock and disappointment” at the verdict.
“How can Indigenous people have faith in the relationship with Canada when the justice system fails to hold anyone accountable for the taking of a life?” Chief Ava Hill said.
The council called on the province to appeal the verdict. It was not immediately clear if an appeal would happen.
With reporting by Nicole Lampa
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