Canadian Corporal Killed by “Roommate’s Rifle” in Afghanistan, Case Goes to Court Martial

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The Canadian military announced yesterday that it will press ahead with its court martial of the 22-year-old Canadian reservist who shot a fellow soldier in March 2007 at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. Corporal Matthew Wilcox has been charged with manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, and negligently performing a military duty.

This news comes as particularly striking to Mother Jones and its readers as this incident was first widely-publicized in an article we ran last summer. Canadian doctor Kevin Patterson, also a Mother Jones contributing writer, was in Afghanistan at the time helping to triage the understaffed and overwhelmed Canadian-run surgical hospital at Kandahar Airfield. During his few months on the ground Patterson treated civilians and soldiers alike (roughly 2/3rds of the hospital’s patients were Afghan civilians and Army personnel, the rest coalition soldiers) and he chronicled his experiences in a frontline diary for the magazine.

Dr. Patterson was on call the evening that Corporal Kevin Megeney, a 25-year-old reservist, was rushed to the ICU after being shot in the chest. It turned out that the the gun was “a roommate’s rifle,” and at press time the incident was under investigation by the Canadian military. Prior to the article’s release Mother Jones sent letters to Megeney’s family, informing them of the pending story and the medical detail including regarding Patterson’s efforts to save the soldier.

The story led to a cavalcade of criticism from the Canadian press, and from Megeney’s family and friends. The Canadian military then launched an investigation into the ethics of its writing, all prompting a lengthy response from our co-editor, Clara Jeffery.

Court-martial proceedings against Patterson have since been dropped, though a military Health Services’ investigation into whether he broke doctor-patient confidentiality is still underway.

This latest news is a sad continuation of a tragic situation. Megeney’s family members have said they feel for Wilcox, who was Megeney’s friend, and have also expressed that they seek more information from the proceedings. “I don’t know if it’ll bring closure,” Karen Megeney, Cpl. Megeney’s mother, said in October. “Certainly, it’ll help a lot to answer some questions. And we can put that behind us, because we’ll know why and what happened.” If convicted of manslaughter Wilcox faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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