SYDNEY, N.S. – The four-officer jury considering the case of a reservist accused of shooting and killing a comrade in Afghanistan begun its deliberations on Thursday.
Cpl. Matthew Wilcox has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, and negligent performance of duty in the death of 25-year-old Kevin Megeney of Stellarton, N.S.
The case has heard from 25 prosecution witnesses and the sole defence witness, Wilcox himself, in the nine-week trial in Sydney.
In his two-hours of instructions on Thursday, the military judge, Cmdr. Peter Lamont, told the jurors they will have to use “common sense” in determining which theory to believe on what happened on March 6, 2007.
The defence has argued that Wilcox – who is from Glace Bay, N.S. -was acting in self-defence, because he believed Megeney pointed his pistol at his back and readied it to fire.
The prosecutors argue Wilcox was playing a game called quick draw when his pistol was fired, basing its accusation on testimony of several friends Wilcox spoke to after the shooting.
They say that the jury shouldn’t believe Wilcox’s self-defence argument because he lacks credibility.
However, prosecutor Maj. Jason Samson has also argued that the self defence argument doesn’t stand up because Wilcox didn’t look at Megeney before firing, and he had options, such as fleeing from the threat.
The military panel has a similar standard of proof as a civilian jury, with the prosecution having to prove that Wilcox is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The charges of manslaughter and criminal negligence leading to death are in the Criminal Code, while the third offence of neglect of duty is in military law.
During his instructions to the jury, Lamont told the jurors they could only find Wilcox guilty of either manslaughter or criminal negligence leading to death.
They may also find him guilty of neglect of duty, either on its own, or in combination with one of the other two more serious charges.
The jury was selected by the military’s Office of the Judge Advocate General, based in Ottawa, with the defence and prosecutors allowed to argue for or against their selection in pre-trial arguments.
Wilcox’s defence attorney, Lt.-Col. Troy Sweet, said the military normally selects five jurors, including one non-commissioned officer, but in this case there are only four.
The judge told the jurors they must come to a unanimous conclusion on each charge.
He said if they cannot reach unanimity on the charge, they must report back to the court to discuss their deadlock with the judge.