Military jury still deliberating in case of Calgary reservist

Associated Press

CALGARY - The fate of a Canadian reservist charged in a fatal training accident in Afghanistan remains in the hands of a military jury.

Maj. Darryl Watts, 44, is facing a court martial on charges that include manslaughter, unlawfully causing bodily harm, breach of duty and negligent performance of duty.

The five-member jury panel received a charge from the military judge, Cmdr. Peter Lamont, on Saturday but only deliberated for about 90 minutes.

The jury adjourned following a full day of deliberations Sunday without reaching a verdict, meaning it will need at least another day to determine Watts guilt or innocence.

Cpl. Josh Baker died and four other soldiers were injured when a Claymore anti-personnel mine, packed with 700 steel balls, peppered their platoon on a training range near Kandahar city in February 2010.

The Crown argues that Watts, who was the platoon commander, turned a blind eye to safety standards and abdicated his duty as a leader during the exercise.

The defence counters that Watts had no training on the Claymore, so he handed over responsibility for safety to his second-in-command, who was an expert on the weapon.

The platoon, which was stationed at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar city, usually visited the Kan Kala firing range about once a month.

The day of the accident the range was divided into four training sections.

The first two tests of the anti-personnel mine went off without a hitch. But when the second firing occurred, the ball bearings fired backwards, hitting Baker and four others.

Videos of the accident show several soldiers, including Watts, standing around watching the tests. They were not inside armoured vehicles or standing behind them for cover, as set out in Canadian Forces safety guidelines.

In his charge to the jury Cmdr. Lamont warned not to go beyond deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused.

"Punishment has no place in your discussion or in your decision," said Lamont.

"It is my job - not yours - to decide what kind of punishment is appropriate."

Lamont told the jury to use their "common sense and experience" to reach a verdict.

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