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

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68jAnTh18TY

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.

Comments

Laowei Gweilo Fri, 08/04/2017 - 19:28 Permalink

Oh who caresHaven'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 Burltron Fri, 08/04/2017 - 19:46 Permalink

"...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."

In reply to by Burltron

WillyGroper Blacksunday3 Fri, 08/04/2017 - 21:00 Permalink

"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.

In reply to by Blacksunday3

fattail TheMachinist Sat, 08/05/2017 - 08:53 Permalink

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.  

In reply to by TheMachinist

WillyGroper Blacksunday3 Fri, 08/04/2017 - 22:06 Permalink

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?

In reply to by Blacksunday3

Eyes Opened WillyGroper Sat, 08/05/2017 - 02:48 Permalink

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 ...."THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE" & in speaking these words, so do the US citizens become as cullpible & guilty for said crimes. 

In reply to by WillyGroper

Son of Captain Nemo AlaricBalth Sat, 08/05/2017 - 07:51 Permalink

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!

In reply to by AlaricBalth

Paul Kersey Fri, 08/04/2017 - 19:39 Permalink

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.

FixItAgainTony SoDamnMad Sat, 08/05/2017 - 22:23 Permalink

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.

In reply to by SoDamnMad

TeethVillage88s Fri, 08/04/2017 - 19:43 Permalink

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 Fri, 08/04/2017 - 19:44 Permalink

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'

cherry picker Fri, 08/04/2017 - 19:59 Permalink

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.