The white Canadian man charged with throwing a trailer hitch at an Indigenous woman who then died about five months later has been convicted of manslaughter and aggravated assault.
Brayden Bushby, 21, was originally charged with second-degree murder and Indigenous leaders wanted to see the case treated as a hate crime. His charge was downgraded in September.
Justice Helen Pierce issued the verdict in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on Monday afternoon.
The Globe and Mail’s Willow Fiddler has been following the case closely and was live-tweeting as Pierce issued the verdict.
Barbara Kentner, a 34-year-old Anishinaabe woman from Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, died in July 2017 after sustaining internal injuries from a trailer hitch that struck her abdomen on January 29 that same year. Kentner was out walking, a little behind her sister, Melissa, after midnight in Thunder Bay. Melissa was trying to get Kentner to hurry up because it was cold when a car started driving towards them.
Melissa has said she saw Bushby hanging out of a car window, before she heard a “clink, clink” sound.
Bushby was drunk and in the car with three other friends, one of the friends said.
In March 2017, Kentner told police the hitch "hit me right across the stomach, I couldn't breathe...I was crying and crawling along. I just wanted to lay there.”
She said she heard the person who threw the hitch yell, “I got one.” Kentner’s sister, Melissa, said she heard the same phrase.
Bushby pleaded guilty to aggravated assault but not guilty to manslaughter for throwing the hitch out of a vehicle. A witness who was in the car with Bushby said the accused laughed after he struck Kentner, a mother to a teenage daughter.
The four-day trial took place last month, with Bushby’s lawyer repeatedly pointing out her underlying health conditions, including chronic liver disease, as the likely cause of death.
The Crown, on the other hand, said Bushby has a “moral culpability” case; regardless of Kentner’s medical history, the accused knew the hitch could harm a person when he threw it.
Pathologist Dr. Toby Rose examined Kentner’s medical record on the stand and said her cause of death was an infection caused by the rupture in her bowel—or blunt force trauma.
On Monday, Pierce said the Crown proved Bushby caused Kentner’s death “beyond reasonable doubt.”
Melissa told Thunder Bay News Watch that no verdict can bring her sister back.
“There is no satisfaction,” Melissa said. “He took my sister’s life.”
Supporters of Kentner and her family have mobilized repeatedly to call out the fatal racism that continues to harm Indigenous and other racialized people in Thunder Bay, CBC News reported.
Bushby’s defence lawyer, George Joseph, has denied the presence of racism as a motivating factor.
Bushby’s sentencing date is set for February 9, 2021.
The case is the latest example of violence against Indigenous peoples appearing before the courts that highlights the distrust Indigenous communities have towards the justice system. In February 2018,Gerald Stanley, the white man who allegedly shot and killed 22-year-old Colten Boushie, a member of Cree Red Pheasant First Nation, was acquitted.
The same month, a judge acquitted Raymond Cormier, the man who was charged with second-degree murder in connection to Tina Fontaine’s death. Cormier had admitted to giving Fontaine drugs.
Fontaine was 15 when her body was found, and her death led Indigenous leaders to publicly denounce Canada for failing her.
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