Retired soldier weighs in on Calgary court martial verdict
A Canadian reservist has been found not guilty of manslaughter in an Afghanistan training accident that killed one soldier and injured four others.
A military jury at a court martial in Calgary also acquitted Maj. Darryl Watts of breach of duty.
He was found guilty of unlawfully causing bodily harm and negligent performance of military duty and will be sentenced in the new year.
Watts was the commanding officer the day 24-year-old Cpl. Josh Baker died after a claymore explosive packed with 700 steel balls hit a Canadian Forces platoon at a training range north of Kandahar city.
The maximum sentence for unlawfully causing bodily harm is imprisonment of up to 10 years. Negligent performance of duty can bring dismissal with disgrace from the Canadian Forces.
Mike Vernon, a retired lieutenant colonel, said he is disappointed in the verdict, but not surprised.
"I don't think Darryl Watts is responsible for what went on at that range that day," said Vernon.
"He didn't know the weapon. He wasn't trained on the weapon. He told his superior officer he wasn't trained, and the right person — the expert in his platoon — ran that range, but he ran it in what I would consider a unsafe manner. In by virtue of his rank, and being the platoon commander, Watts would not magically know that something was wrong on this range."
Vernon said he is very curious to see what the actual sentencing is when that comes down in January.
Watts's lawyer Balfour Der said his client feels great anguish about the loss of one of his men, but he still wants to be in the army.
"He is a soldier — he's a good soldier — he wants to be there, so we're going to fight like hell to keep him there," said Der, adding he will be arguing for minimum repercussions to his service record and against jail time.
Der said he will talk to his client about the possibility of an appeal.