Military manslaughter trial in N.S. urged not to accept self-defence argument

SYDNEY, N.S. - A prosecutor says no Canadian soldier would fire a "wild, unaimed" shot without looking at the target in his closing arguments Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of a soldier accused of shooting a comrade in Afghanistan.

SYDNEY, N.S. - A prosecutor says no Canadian soldier would fire a "wild, unaimed" shot without looking at the target in his closing arguments Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of a soldier accused of shooting a comrade in Afghanistan.

Cpl. Matthew Wilcox is facing charges of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death and neglect of military duty in the March 6, 2007, death of his friend and tentmate, Cpl. Kevin Megeney.

In his testimony at the court martial, Wilcox said he feared for his life, thinking somebody was pointing a gun at his back in his tent when he entered just after a shift as a guard at one of the Kandahar Airfield's entry gates.

The 24-year-old from Glace Bay, N.S., claimed to have pivoted and fired his pistol, only realizing after squeezing the trigger once that he'd shot Megeney, who was from Stellarton, N.S.

In making the prosecution's argument before the defence had its opportunity, Maj. Jason Samson urged the jury of four military officers not to accept that evidence, saying there was testimony from Wilcox's comrades that the corporal had been playing a game of "quick draw" with Megeney.

In that game, soldiers attempt to draw their pistols from holsters more quickly than their opponent.

Samson said that even if the jurors decide to accept Wilcox's version of what happened, then it meets the definition of manslaughter and criminal negligence because no "professional soldier" in the Canadian Armed Forces would whirl and shoot without assessing the risk.

"As a manager of violence it is unacceptable to shoot at a target without looking at it," he said. "What if that was a child?"

The prosecutor also described Wilcox's testimony as unbelievable and drew attention to his body language in the witness box. Samson said Wilcox's "eyes were shifting" during his testimony, he frequently looked at his lawyers, and he "backpedalled" when pressed on details of his story.

"I argue his testimony didn't make sense," he said, adding that it was "ridiculous."

Samson said Wilcox's claim that he could only see a pistol barrel, and not spot the red-headed Megeney, from three metres away, wasn't credible.

"Cpl. Wilcox says he didn't have time to think. I say to you that he did not think at all," said Samson.

He highlighted evidence given during the trial from weapons officers that soldiers were specifically trained not to take "wild, aimless" shots at unknown targets.

The trial has been underway for almost nine weeks.

 
 
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