Federal Court Tosses Murder Conviction Of Ex-Blackwater Guard In 2007 Iraq Massacre

Tyler Durden's picture

In a highly unusual decision sure to open old wounds among Iraqis and further prolong an already protracted legal saga, a US appeals court has thrown out the murder conviction of an ex-Blackwater security guard and ordered three co-defendants to be resentenced for their roles in the deadliest incident involving the controversial private security firm to date. The men were responsible for the September 16, 2007 Nisour Square shooting in Baghdad, which killed 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians and wounded 17 others, and threatened to inflame tensions at the height of what was an already bloody and volatile coalition occupation.

On Friday afternoon a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that Nicholas Slatten should be given a new trial which would allow for fresh testimony concerning his 2014 first-degree murder conviction. Among the four ex-Blackwater employees sentenced in the 2014 trial, Slatten was the only one convicted of murder as it was believed that he fired on the unarmed civilians first. The other three men - Evan Liberty, Paul Slough, and Dustin Heard - were each given 30-years for manslaughter and other related charges (Slatten had been given a life sentence). Friday's decision also directed that the three men be given new sentences because it deemed the previous 30-year sentences to constitute "cruel and unusual punishment." However, Iraqi family members of the slain (who in some instances lost children) are sure to disagree.

Image source: The Real News

The event received broad international media attention at the time as Blackwater already had a reputation for heavy-handed and trigger happy tactics, and for being "above the law" as a private mercenary firm while operating in Iraq.

The firm, run by former Navy Seal Erik Prince - himself a shadowy figure subject of federal investigations and civil lawsuits - went through multiple name changes after what was dubbed the 'Nisour Square Massacre'. Prince's company is currently called Academi and has been awarded hundreds of millions in contracts by the Pentagon, the CIA, and foreign governments since its 1997 founding. 

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill authored the book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army and produced this documentary exploring the Nisour Square Massacre:


Friday's appeals court decision hinged on the issue that the 2014 case found that Nicholas Slatten had fired first, which prompted the other Blackwater contractors in the four vehicle armored convoy to assume they were coming under attack. At the time the group was clearing a path as a US diplomatic escort (one of Blackwater's primary roles in Iraq was protection of high level officials working out of Baghdad's 'Green Zone') and upon entering the heavily congested Nisour Square opened fire with heavy machine guns and grenade launchers indiscriminately killing men, women, and children. Numerous complaints had already plagued Blackwater in Iraq up to that point for their brazen disregard for Iraqis on roadways.

Slatten's murder conviction was specifically for the first shooting death of a man in a white Kia which had stopped at the traffic circle and threatened to block the convoy's movement. This had marked the beginning of the drawn out bloody and chaotic incident wherein the convoy expended hundreds of rounds of ammunition. The appeals court concluded:

The government's case against Slatten hinged on his having fired the first shots, his animosity toward the Iraqis having led him to target the white Kia unprovoked.

The prior 2014 case tried the four defendants together, which meant that Slatten could not enter evidence based on testimony from his co-defendants. Friday's decision allows for him to be retried separately in order to allow his colleagues to testify in his defense . While the specific co-defendant remains unnamed, the court acknowledged a previous statement issued by one of the three charged with manslaughter that it was he and not Slatten that was first to "engage and hit the driver."

"They kept pumping bullets into us" according to Iraqi testimony at the time. Aftermath of the Nisour Square Massacre. Image source: Al Jazeera.

Source: Defense One, based on official DoD numbers.

The 2014 convictions were met with mixed reactions in Iraq at the time. Friday's ruling came down while it was night in Iraq, and it is likely to spark major protests in Baghdad as the news breaks over the weekend. Even after the US formally and "officially" pulled out of Iraq in December 2011 (though counter-terrorism personnel later advised anti-ISIL missions), tens of thousands of private US contractors remained.

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Laowei Gweilo's picture

Oh who cares

Haven't they played Ghost Recon Wildlands?!

When you're giving away free freedoms or bored driving between waypoints, sometimes there's just collateral damage.

AlaricBalth's picture

"...tens of thousands of private US contractors remained"

Don't they mean mercenaries?

"September 2005, Brigadier General Karl Horst, deputy commander of the Third Infantry Division charged with Baghdad security after the 2003 invasion, said of DynCorp and other PMCs in Iraq: "These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force... They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place."

Mena Arkansas's picture

I prefer corporate freedom fighters.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

We never should have been in Iraq in the first place, but if you want me to get sad feels for a bunch of sand niggers...sorry, ain't gonna happen.

dirty fingernails's picture

Fucking morons like you are the reason DC gets away with the shit they do, all because they don't look like you. May your hometown get a similar visit from these mercs. Maybe then you'll learn some basic empathy and rejoin humanity.

dogismycopilot's picture

@ dirty fingernails: Spend a few years working in Iraq and you will probably have a different perspective.


WillyGroper's picture

"if you want me to get sad feels for a bunch of sand niggers...sorry, ain't gonna happen."

wonder who else looks at humans that way?  perhaps the ones paying the mercs?

knowing the ussa has been infested with ME mercs since the 90's, i suspect when the plug is pulled, you'll be shown the same eye for an eye mercy.

HowdyDoody's picture

Blackwater or whatever it is called now is looking to muscle in as the Afghan government's air force. They even have an iPhone app 'Safe Strike' for calling in air support. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?



beemasters's picture

"wonder who else looks at humans that way?"

They are called psychopaths.

Blacksunday3's picture

I've never served etc but I'd imagine moral standards get stretched in those situations. Everyone has to make their choices of course.

WillyGroper's picture

"I'd imagine moral standards get stretched in those situations."


imagine war on people that have done nothing to you if there's any such thing as moral standards.

to quote heinz: “Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

so until those dumb stupid animals say "no more," we're stuck in their artificial construct of hatred & murder.

Blacksunday3's picture

Got it. Just saying, you take a 21 y/o kid and put him in a hellhole with suicide bombers etc, I can see people becoming warped and jaded. Not a huge stretch of the imagination. A world without war would be great.

TheMachinist's picture

I'm a veteran so I can say this:  NO ONE MAKES THE FUCKERS SIGN UP.  THERE'S NO DRAFT.  Mercenary bullshit nowadays.  All of it.

fattail's picture

There's no draft.  They volunteered to be told where to go, what to do, who to kill.  The US govt has a long history of screwing veterans over after the wars and during the wars.  Don't act suprised when the government is not interested in your high suicide rate, you're doing them a favor.  

Just a simple observation.  I'm not a veteran, and I can still say it.  

Hikikomori's picture

Using your logic, a cop who's had a bad day is justified in shooting your family - to let off a little steam.  Then collect a PTSD pension.

Blacksunday3's picture

I'd give a thumbs down to killing people for fun. Since ur asking

Mr Hankey's picture

Or perceived necessity  for peeps who never should have been armed anywhere in places they never should have been.

WillyGroper's picture

the nerve cells of the brain aren't fully developed until age 26.

this is why the young are targets for the big lie.

it's also why 20 per day off themselves because they can't live with what they've done & realize all those promises made when they signed the dotted line were lies too... destroying their family in the process.  but that's the objective isn't it?

wonder if they're paid in gold or fiat for their dasterdly deeds?

Eyes Opened's picture

But these guys ARE simply mercs... happy to be paid by whoever -da-fuck to run riot , killing & maiming. They are NOT the young idealistic naiive semi-adults you're describing. These are scum of the earth who would happily butcher their own for the same payday. 

Morals & integrity are a severe hindrance in this line of "work".... as is a soul. And yet, when they come home, people will fawn over them & speak those immortal words ....


& in speaking these words, so do the US citizens become as cullpible & guilty for said crimes. 

Trogdor's picture

to quote heinz: “Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

That's Kissinger ... and if you substitute "Americans" for "Military" you pretty much have the philosophy of Israhell.

WillyGroper's picture

"That's Kissinger"


born Heinz Alfred Kissinger...no ketchup.

elephant's picture
“The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human.”

Aldous Huxley

imaginalis's picture

You are a vile contaminant of reasonable thinking

Schmuck Raker's picture

The sooner US corporations' overseas assets are repatriated, the better.

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

Excellent points AB

To what you just said. It begs the question if General Horst and his upper-chain of command refused to take matters into their own hands to court martial or even "frag" these sons of bitches then they "were" and "are" in on it!...

The U.S. Army was able to frag one of it's own Pat Tillman (and God only knows how many others we will never know about) and the evidence of that incident down the "memory hole" just like 9/11!

curbjob's picture

Historically, the royal court never imprisons  the Prince's  knights for slaying a few peasants ..  so not much has changed.

marcusfenix's picture

I played wildlands and found it to be kind of bland, kind of a GTA, The Division, Army of Two mash up but not as good as any of the components.  

To bad to because I've always liked GR games for the most part. 

Now if you want a really good Tom Clancy fix I recommend Rainbow Six Siege, that is some truly bas ass gaming.

Mr Hankey's picture

You do know Laowei's comment wasn't  about  video games, right? 

logicalman's picture

The 'law' at work.

Paul Kersey's picture

If given the word, this same group would have fired on American civilians. We are all just human livestock to the "War Party, who can butcher and fleece us with impunity.

Anteater's picture


Ziopig A or Ziopig B, your only choice is which cult

you will be forced to drink the poisoned Koolaid in.


dirty fingernails's picture

That's the part of the civil war fantasy that escapes so many. The Feds are going to be on their own side and that side has the firepower advantage.

junction's picture

Have to be nice to Erik Prince's company because Prince is to provide the mercenaries who will take out Trump and his private security detail at the opportune moment.  As Trump well knows.

SoDamnMad's picture

Sadly, when you hear about martial law in America and whether American soldiers will fire or not fire on Americans, it will be these clowns who point the M4s at the crowd and laughing fire into families. 

FixItAgainTony's picture

So messy, they'll simply escort us onto buses to the FEMA displaced persons camps where things will be neatly sorted out with all the humanity we've come to expect from Federal Govt.

Why were you displaced? Somehow water and power to your town got cut off and you were out past curfew trying to purchase food on the black market from undercover police. The MSM will blame a nefarious "white nationalist movement", but rumors will persist about various 3-letter agency contractors training in the area prior to the acts of sabotage.

CheapBastard's picture

Is this the same war Bush started (based on his lies) and Barry Hussein bin Bama was supposed to end?

uhland62's picture

Sources say that all the Murdoch media whipped up the population to be right behind this war. You need oil, you take oil. Promote the petrodollar, too, because Saddam was about to sell oil for Euros from the 1st April 2003. Only logical to invade in March 2003, taxpayer pays with the credit card, no problem. 

FixItAgainTony's picture

That war had so many beneficiary cabals you couldn't count them all, ask Ahmed Chalabi.

TeethVillage88s's picture

We don't need no stinking:

- Politicians
- Lobbyists
- Lawyers
- Bankers
- Foundation Employees, Associates, Chairs, Delegates

- Bullshit Court Systems that side with Globalism over Nation-Hood... side with Lawyers, Lobbyists, Bankers, Politicians, Foundation Employees...
- Bullshit that opposes US Declaration of Independence... US Constitution... US Individual Rights... Economic Strength/Support for Middle Class/Support for Domestic Wages & Income to pay Tax Base & Health Care & Skills Re-Training & Steak Dinners & Cost of MSM to access Business Info/Finance Info/Govt Budget Info...

And by the WEay Death to America... S/

khnum's picture

reminds me of the helicopter scene in Full Metal Jacket where the gunner is indiscriminately shooting at civilians below,'anyone that runs is a VC anyone that stays still is  awell displined VC'

gregga777's picture

"How can you shoot women and children?"

"You don't lead them as much."

Miss Informed's picture

"Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500"- Captain Benjamin Willard

cherry picker's picture

Bunch of tough sadists..  they  are so brave they kill unarmed innocents because they are scared they may fight back.

Send these assholes to Iraq and let the families dispense justice.

Kaiser Sousa's picture

word...bitch ass mother fuckers...

land_of_the_few's picture

Send them to Ukraine with the same level weapons as the locals, and no tame guides or translators. Then we will see who is afraid.

historian40's picture

Isn't that kinda what the N. Korea thing is over?  Kill them before they have the ability to fight back.