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Utah vet may yet get justice in attack

Utah National Guard Sgt. Layne Morris lost his right eye in a grenade attack July 27, 2002, in Afghanistan.
Utah National Guard Sgt. Layne Morris lost his right eye in a grenade attack July 27, 2002, in Afghanistan.
Johanna Workman, Deseret Morning News

Sgt. Layne Morris of West Jordan never thought he would see justice against the man he says took away his right eye.

He even took matters into his own hands last year when he filed a civil lawsuit against the father of his alleged attacker. And now, more than three years since the attack, charges have been filed in the case.

The U.S. government charged Omar Khadr, 19, Monday with murder, attempted murder, aiding the enemy and conspiracy for allegedly tossing a grenade July 27, 2002, that killed three people, including U.S. Army medic Christopher Speer, and wounded several others.

Khadr was a young, 15-year-old supporter of al-Qaida at the time of the attack, planting mines to target U.S. convoys and gathering surveillance. The teenager is one of five suspected al-Qaida terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay pending military tribunals.

"My concern has always been that they would end up somehow releasing him or something like that just due to his age, which is kind of a crock," said Morris, who was blinded in his right eye from shrapnel. "It was good to see that the government is following through on that and have added him to the list of people that they think they've got a great case against."

A federal judge in Utah recently entered default judgment against the estate of Khadr's father, an alleged al-Qaida financier. The $10 million lawsuit alleged that Khadr's father, Ahmad Sa'id Khadr, "coerced, aided, instructed and promoted" him to commit terrorism and failed to control his son.

Morris, housing director for West Valley City, and Speer's widow filed the unprecedented civil suit in August 2004, after Morris saw Khadr's sister say in a television interview that the death of a soldier was "no big deal."

Now Morris and Speers are waiting to find out just how much money the judge will award in damages.

Ahmad Sa'id Khadr's assets were frozen by the U.S. and Canadian governments and the United Nations. The plaintiffs, who were given 20 days to establishment the amount of damages they expect, are seeking to collect the damages from the frozen funds.

Morris said he knows it might be years before he actually receives any damages. "But it will keep those funds out of al-Qaida and away from the people that would do harm against us."

But ultimately, Morris said he is pushing the lawsuit to help Speer's family, who lost everything.

"There was a man out there who was an awfully good man named Chris Speers who is dead and has a wife and two young children that are never going to see him, and they deserve more than what they've gotten out of life," Morris said. "They deserve some compensation. If there is any way they can get that, that would be great."

Contributing: Associated Press.