A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the first-degree murder conviction of a former Blackwater security contractor, ordering a new trial for the man prosecutors say fired the first shots in the 2007 slayings of 14 Iraqi civilians at a crowded traffic circle in Baghdad. In a split opinion, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit ruled a lower court erred by not allowing Nicholas Slatten to be tried separately from his three co-defendants in 2014. The 33-year-old contractor from Tennessee is serving a life sentence for his role in the killings, which strained international relations and drew intense scrutiny of the role of American contractors in the Iraq War.
[ April 20 2015 life for one, 30 years for three ]
Nicholas A. Slatten, 31, of Sparta, Tenn., received a life sentence after being convicted of murder in October for firing what prosecutors said were the first shots in the civilian massacre. The three others — Paul A. Slough, 35, of Keller, Tex.; Evan S. Liberty, 32, of Rochester, N.H.; and Dustin L. Heard, 33, of Maryville, Tenn. — were sentenced to 30 years plus one day after being convicted of multiple counts of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.
[October 22 2014 Nissour Square Massacre verdict guilty stunned the defense]
Four former Blackwater security guards were found guilty Wednesday in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad, and a federal judge ordered them immediately to jail.
In an overwhelming victory for prosecutors, a jury found Nicholas Slatten guilty of first-degree murder. The three other guards — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were found guilty of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and gun charges.
The four men had been charged with a combined 33 counts in the shootings and the jury was able to reach a verdict on all of them, with the exception of three charges against Heard. The prosecution agreed to drop those charges.
The outcome after a summerlong trial and weeks of jury deliberation stunned the defense.
Jurors in the trial of four Blackwater security guards may have reached agreement on some criminal charges while raising the possibility they may become deadlocked on others. In a note from the jury of asking the judge for instructions, asking whether they could return a partial verdict on the charges where they had reached a unanimous decision and what would happen if they were in deadlock on others.
They also asked in two consecutive notes on Monday and Tuesday detailed questions about separate weapons charges that seem to indicate they are leaning towards sticking with voluntary manslaughter charges, rather than reducing them to involuntary manslaughter as had previously been suspected. , the judge instructed them that the government was only suggesting the grenade launchers may count as destructive devices, but need only prove that any weapon was used to make the charge stick.
[October 2 jury hints involuntary manslaughter]
Jurors in the long-running murder and manslaughter case against four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards hinted to a D.C. federal judge on October 1 that they may convict at least one of the defendants of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a 2007 incident in Baghdad.
On day 17 of deliberations, jurors asked U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth whether the weapons charge against Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard must be predicated on a voluntary manslaughter conviction or if the charge also applies to involuntary manslaughter, suggesting involuntary manslaughter.
[September 19 Nisour Square massacre: jury back on Monday]
[August 29 2014 Blackwater Trial Comes to a Close]
In closing arguments, assistant US attorney Anthony Asuncion claimed three of the four defendants were guilty of manslaughter and a fourth of murder for showing extreme disregard for human life in retaliating against what they mistakenly believed was a car bomb attack on their convoy.
But the defence summed up its case with a blistering attack on the government for ignoring evidence of alleged incoming machine gun fire at the convoy, which it also accused Iraqi police of helping to cover upJurors are expected to begin deliberating September 2.
[June 20 Nisour Square massacre: Opening arguments in trial of four former Blackwater Worldwide guards]
WASHINGTON— Opening arguments were heard on June 17 in the trial of four former private security guards charged in the 2007 killings of 14 Iraqis in Baghdad.
Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Patrick Martin said mayhem ensued when Nicholas Slatten, a Blackwater sniper riding in a convoy of armored vehicles assigned to provide security for a U.S. diplomat, shot the driver of a white Kia sedan in the head for no reason other than a hatred of Iraqis.
Six of his fellow guards would soon join in the shooting, Mr. Martin said, gunning down 13 more innocent Iraqis in and around busy Nisour Square, even though they posed no threat.
Mr. Slatten “lit the match and the other defendants fanned the flames of destruction that day,” Mr. Martin told jurors.
Mr. Slatten alone faces a murder charge for the alleged killing of the Kia driver, Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y.
Three other defendants— Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard—face charges of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and illegal use of weapons for the shooting that allegedly occurred after Mr. Al Rubia’y’s death.
All four have pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The reputation of the guards’ employer, Blackwater USA was severely tarnished . The company has since been sold and is now called Academi LLC.
Four former Blackwater Worldwide guards go on trial together scheduled to begin on June 11 in the killings of 14 Iraqi civilians and the injuring of at least 18 others in Baghdad.
Prosecutors, obtained a first-degree murder indictment last week against one of the guards, Nicholas Slatten.U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed a manslaughter indictment against Slatten on April 23 after an appeals court said the statute of limitations had lapsed. There is no time limit on bringing a first-degree murder charge. Slatten fired the first shots at Nisur Square. Another former Blackwater guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Blackwater Worldwide is now known as Academi and is based in McLean, Virginia. At the time of the shooting, the guards were escorting a State Department convoy through the streets of the Iraqi capital.
[December 5 2013]
Four ex-Blackwater guards are pleading not guilty to multiple manslaughter charges stemming from a deadly 2007 shooting on the streets of Baghdad.
A new indictment was returned by a grand jury in Washington against four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards for a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that prosecutors said killed 14 unarmed civilians. The charges 33 counts, including voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter and using a firearm in a crime of violence.
The guards had pleaded not guilty to the nearly identical charges brought five years ago. They are Paul Slough, 34; Nicholas Slatten, 29; Evan Liberty, 31; and Dustin Heard, 32.
Blackwater is now named Academi and is based in McLean, Virginia.
[June 6 2012]
Supreme court has declined to review ruling that guards would be criminally charged for role in shooting that killed 17 civilians
The so-called Nisour Square massacre was the single bloodiest incident involving American private security contractors during the Iraq conflict. It outraged Iraqis, put severe strain on relations between Baghdad and Washington, and served as a watershed moment in the debate surrounding private fighters in foreign war zones.
The shooting took place on September 16, 2007 at the congested Nisour Square intersection, after a convoy of four armoured vehicles manned by Blackwater guards had departed from Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.
In a span of 15 minutes, heavy gunfire erupted and by the time it was over, more than three dozen Iraqi civilians had been shot, at least 17 fatally. Among the dead was nine-year-old Ali Kinani, who was shot in the head as he rode in a car with his father, Mohammed Kinnani.
The guards maintain that they opened fire in self-defense after being shot at by insurgents.
The state department had ordered the guards – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Donald Ball – to explain to investigators what happened under the threat of losing their jobs.The contractors’ attorney, claimed his clients’ constitutional right against self-incrimination was violated when these statements were used to charge the men.
On December 31, 2009, federal judge Ricardo Urbina agreed with the guards’ claims and threw out the cases, citing “reckless violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights”. After the ruling, Blackwater reportedly paid the some of the victims’ families about $100,000 for each death and issued a statement that it was “pleased” with the outcome.
But in April last year a US federal appeals court reinstated the charges after months of closed-door testimony.
On June 1, former Blackwater executives asked the judge in a firearms case to dismiss the charges related to the gun gift and others in the indictment.
Federal prosecutors in 2010 accused former Blackwater Worldwide president Gary Jackson and four past colleagues of various federal firearms violations. A group of charges related to five guns given to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Prosecutors said the guns were part of a bid for Blackwater to land a lucrative overseas contract, but allege that records tracking the guns were later falsified to claim the weapons were sold to individuals.
Defense attorneys filed declarations from two retired CIA officials who say they are familiar with gifts presented during the king’s 2005 visit to Blackwater’s Moyok, N.C., headquarters. John Macguire, who described himself as a CIA officer for 23 years ending in 2005, and Charles Seidel, who said he was CIA station chief in the Jordanian capital of Amman in 2005, said they would be willing to testify about their knowledge of government involvement if the spy agency allows it.
“I have information related to the transfer of firearms to the King of Jordan described in numerous counts of the indictment and how the U.S. government’s authorization for the transfer of those weapons took place,” Maguire said in a statement filed in federal court in Raleigh, where the case is pending.
A group of investors bought Blackwater in December 2010 from founder Erik Prince. It is now called Academi.