GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — Omar Khadr’s defence lawyer collapsed in court Thursday, shocking participants and potentially throwing the war-crimes trial into disarray.
Lt. Col. Jon Jackson was conscious when taken from the courthouse by ambulance to hospital.
“He is stabilized; he is currently in hospital,” said Khadr’s Edmonton-based lawyer, Dennis Edney.
“We hope it’s not serious. We don’t know yet the outcome.”
It was not known whether Jackson’s condition was related to gall-bladder surgery he underwent about six weeks ago.
The incident occurred almost at the end of the day as Jackson, Khadr’s strapping Pentagon-appointed lawyer, was cross-examining a witness who testified to shooting Khadr twice in the back eight years ago.
With just minutes to go before court was slated to recess for the day, Jackson appeared unwell and asked the judge for a brief recess. He moved heavily back to his desk, complaining of feeling thirsty.
Just after the seven jurors left, he fell to one knee, then collapsed on the carpeted floor of the courtroom.
“He was lying on the floor,” Edney said. “He was responsive,” Edney said.
Khadr jumped to his feet in shock.
“Omar, of course was very upset,” Edney said.
Judge Col. Patrick Parrish asked court to convene at 9 am Friday, presumably to assess the situation and bring the jurors up to date.
Edney himself has no standing in the U.S. court, and Khadr recently fired his American civilian lawyers, leaving only Jackson to defend him of a charge that could see him imprisoned for life.
Edney said it was too late to speculate what the impact on the trial would be if Jackson were unable to continue but clearly any loss of Jackson would be a significant blow.
“I will be keeping a wait and see what happens,” Edney said.
Jackson, whose style ranges from a kind of low-key “aw shucks” charm offensive to steely no-nonsense attack mode, has been successful at this point in many of his objections.
He also succeeded in having Parrish excuse six prospective jurors out of the original pool of 15.