Layne Morris

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Sgt. First Class
Layne Morris
Born 1962
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch US Army National Guard
Years of service 1983-2002
Rank Sergeant First Class
Unit Green Berets, Army National Guard 19th Special Forces Group, Utah[1]
Relations Leisl (spouse)
Other work Housing director for West Valley City, Utah[2]

Sergeant First Class Layne Morris (b. 1962) is a retired soldier in an American Special Forces unit. Sergeant Morris was wounded and blinded in one eye during a fire-fight on July 27, 2002 that left Sergeant 1st Class Christopher J. Speer dead.

"A piece of the hand grenade shrapnel cut the optic nerve, So I'm blind in one eye."

—Sgt. Layne Morris to 60 Minutes [3]

The Canadian Omar Khadr, then fifteen and held since 2002 by the United States, is alleged[by whom?] to have been responsible for Speer's death. While it is frequently mistakenly reported that Speer and Morris were wounded by the same grenade, that is not true. Morris was injured and evacuated from the site of the skirmish hours before Speer was mortally wounded by a grenade.[4]

Sergeant Morris retired from the military. He returned to his home in Utah, where he became a local West Valley City housing director in civilian life.[2] He lives with his wife Leisl in South Jordan, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City.[1] He appeared in a National Geographic special, U.S. Army Special Forces (2003), and on 60 Minutes (2007).[5]

Civil suit[edit]

Khadr's father Achmed Said Khadr had been a close associate of Osama bin Laden and worked with members of Al-Qaeda; he was killed near the border of Afghanistan in 2004. Sergeant Morris joined with Sergeant Speer's widow, Tabitha Speer, in a legal civil suit against Achmed Khadr's estate. His argument is that since Omar Khadr was only fourteen, he could not be held responsible for his actions—but his father could.

Normally "acts of war" are not subject to civil suits. Morris and Speer argued successfully that Khadr was a terrorist, not a soldier—so his actions were not exempted from civil suits.

"The family was all in Pakistan, I thought, all right, you made your choice, fine, have a nice life and I was okay with it. It was when they pulled out the Canadian passports and started waving them around to come back and take advantage of their free everything because it hadn't gone well for them – that was the point when I said, you know there's something additionally I can do."

—Sgt. Layne Morris[1]

On February 16, 2006 U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell awarded Morris and Tabitha Speer triple damages, totalling $102.6 million.[6] An article published in the June 14, 2007 Salt Lake Tribune said that Morris and Tabitha Speer might collect funds via the U.S. Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.[7] A Treasury Department official had acknowledged that Ahmed Khadr's assets had been frozen, but said it was up to Morris and Speer to locate them. Senator Orrin Hatch had been asked to intervene and was "very interested".

In January 2008, a U.S. Attorney claimed the US federal government to have "sovereign immunity" over the seized funds, asserting that it does not have to comply with a judgement in a civil suit.[8]

"Although sovereign immunity may be waived there is no waiver in this case."

Guantanamo military commissions[edit]

Omar Khadr was named as one of ten detainees who faced charges before special military commissions. These commissions were not courts martial.

Guantanamo military commission chief prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis said, on January 10, 2006, that he planned to call Layne Morris as a witness against Khadr. Sergeant Morris was to testify that he knew he was injured by Khadr. On June 29, 2006 the US Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling that the commissions were unconstitutional because they had not been authorized by Congress, and violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the USA's obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

Sergeant Morris told interviewers he was disappointed that the military commissions had been overturned.

  • "It is justice delayed. I don't think that's a good thing ... I think those tribunals could have provided a trial viewed as fair by most of the world. In that sense, I think it is unfortunate,"[9]
  • "I guess I don't agree with giving these people all of the legal rights that citizens have,"[10]
  • "I think everyone on both sides of the political aisle just wants to see some sort of resolution to their status and I guess it's just going to take longer now to figure out how that process is going to work."[11]

In 2008, a five-page statement from an American who shot Khadr said that the youth had not been the only occupant of the compound to have survived the American aerial bombardment. He said further that Khadr had been shot in the back; he was sitting upright with his back to the skirmish. This cast doubt on assertions that Khadr had thrown the grenade that killed Speer.[12]

While journalists questioned whether Omar Khadr threw the grenade at US forces, in a telephone interview with Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star. Morris insisted "That was a total shock to me. Everyone had told me from the get-go that there was only one guy in there."[12] He thought there was evidence that "Omar was the grenade man."[13] [14]

  • "Instead of surrendering and calling it a day, he made the decision to wait until personnel got close enough that he could restart the battle, pop up and throw a hand grenade."
  • "I'm fine with this dragging on for another five years before there's a trial as long as they stay locked up."

In the Feb 6, 2008 interview, Layne Morris admitted that he was outside the compound when injured, and couldn't see who injured him. Sgt. Morris said he was airlifted out before the special forces group entered the compound. He could not have witnessed anything inside, including the death of Sgt Speer.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Khadr goes on trial". Toronto Star. 2007-04-29. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  2. ^ a b Leigh Dethman (2005-11-09). "Utah vet may yet get justice in attack". Deseret News. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  3. ^ "Omar Khadr: The Youngest Terrorist?". CBS News. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  4. ^ "Gitmo trials rigged, PM should push for Khadr's return: U.S. military lawyer". Canadian Press. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2008-07-17. Kuebler called that scenario 'a complete figment of his imagination,' noting a wounded Morris had been taken from the immediate battle scene before Speer died.  mirror
  5. ^ Layne Morris, IMDB
  6. ^ "GI injured in Afghan war wins lawsuit: Unique case: Court awards default judgment to man blinded in one eye", Salt Lake Tribune, February 16, 2006
  7. ^ Dawn House (June 14, 2007). "Judge clears way for wounded soldier to collect judgement against terrorist". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  8. ^ a b Dawn House (January 26, 2008). "Feds fight order to turn over terrorist funds". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2008-02-06. Federal officials have frozen the funds, but the U.S. government cannot hand over any money because it is not subject to rulings in civil lawsuits, says U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor. 
  9. ^ Wounded soldier miffed tribunal for Canadian detained in Guantanamo is off, National Post, June 30, 2006 mirror
  10. ^ US ruling won't close Guantanamo camp-Pentagon, Reuters, June 30, 2006
  11. ^ Send Khadr home, lawyers urge U.S.: Top court deems tribunals illegal Toronto teen held at Guantanamo, Toronto Star, June 30, 2006
  12. ^ a b Michelle Shephard (February 6, 2008). "Injured U.S. soldier 'shocked' Khadr wasn't alone: 'Everyone told me from the get-go that there was only one guy in there,' ex-Green Beret says". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-02-06. A document inadvertently released to reporters here Monday disclosed that after the grenade was thrown, a U.S. operative killed another suspect and then shot Khadr twice in the back. The revelation casts doubt on the Pentagon's assertion that Khadr threw the grenade that fatally wounded Delta Force soldier and medic Christopher Speer.  mirror
  13. ^ "Khadr was the 'grenade man,' U.S. soldier maintains". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2008-02-06. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  14. ^ "Omar Khadr was alone in bunker, U.S. soldier maintains". CBC News. February 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-06. A U.S. soldier said he was shocked to hear a new witness account that Canadian Omar Khadr wasn't the only one who could've lobbed a grenade that killed his military colleague, but maintains there is evidence it was him.  mirror

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