Calgary reservist Maj. Darryl Watts found not guilty of manslaughter
Published Tuesday, December 4, 2012 2:47PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 5, 2012 7:23AM EST
A military jury has found a Calgary reservist not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty of negligent performance and unlawfully causing bodily harm, more than two years after a deadly training accident in Afghanistan.
Maj. Darryl Watts, 44, was also found not guilty of two counts of breach of duty.
The five-member military panel produced the verdict after deliberating for four days.
Watts faced a court martial on six charges that included manslaughter, unlawfully causing bodily harm, breach of duty and negligent performance of duty.
Cpl. Josh Baker, 24, died and four other soldiers were injured after a Claymore anti-personnel mine struck their platoon on a training range near Kandahar city in February 2010. Watts -- who held the rank of captain at the time and was the platoon commander -- was accused of failing to ensure the safety of his charges.
The Crown prosecutor argued that Watts abdicated his duty as a leader and failed to ensure his troops followed proper safety standards. Watts' lawyers, meanwhile, argued that he had no training on the Claymore mines and was not qualified to run a firing-range exercise -- something he had made clear to his superiors.
After voicing his concerns, the defence said, Watts handed over responsibility for the troops' safety to his second-in-command, Warrant Officer (ret'd) Paul Ravensdale, an expert on the explosive mine involved.
In court testimony last week, Watts admitted he was in charge of the platoon but not the specific training exercise that killed Baker.
The prosecution, however, called a number of witnesses in an attempt to demonstrate that Watts had the authority to either move the soldiers further away or cease the exercise altogether, and was therefore ultimately responsible for what happened.
Three of the soldiers who were injured in the blast took the stand during the court martial, describing the incident as a disorganized training exercise where some soldiers were given safety briefings while others were not.
None of them felt that Watts was responsible, however, saying he was a conscientious leader.
Military judge Cmdr. Peter Lamont instructed the five-member panel to use their "common sense and experience" in reaching a verdict.
Capt. Christopher Lunney -- the superior officer to both Watts and Ravensdale -- pleaded guilty in September to negligent performance of a military duty. He had his rank of major reduced.
Ravensdale faces the same charges as Watts, but his court martial has not yet been convened.
Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2011. In total, 157 Canadian soldiers were killed over nine years.
Close to 1,000 Canadian military personnel remain in the country, serving in training roles.
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