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Four Ex Blackwater Guards Who Were Found Guilty In Deaths of 17 Iraqis Seek New Trial Citing New Information

April 10, 2015  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Four Ex Blackwater Guards Who Were Found Guilty In Deaths of 17 Iraqis Seek New Trial Citing New Information

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for four former Blackwater guards asked a judge Friday to postpone their sentencing, citing in an emergency motion newly discovered evidence that they said is favorable to their defense.

The guards are scheduled to be sentenced Monday in federal court in Washington after being found guilty in the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in 2007. Federal prosecutors are seeking mandatory decades-long sentences for three of the four — Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Paul Slough — and a life sentence for guard Nicholas Slatten, who was convicted of first-degree murder.

With the sentencing hearing just days away, defense lawyers argued that a new witness statement provided by prosecutors this week contradicts the government’s case about how the shooting started and calls into doubt the trial’s results.

“Defendants, who have been confined since the verdict, do not lightly seek delay, or seek delay for its own sake. But these issues deserve full consideration by the Court: it would be unfair to proceed to impose sentence and enter judgment when this new evidence, disclosed less than two days ago, leaves the trial result fundamentally in doubt,” defense lawyers wrote.

The statement, from an Iraqi traffic policeman who was a key trial witness, was turned over as part of a package of victim impact statements assembled ahead of the sentencing hearing.

The policeman’s testimony was intended to support the government’s theory that the shooting in crowded Nisoor Square in downtown Baghdad was an unprovoked ambush by the guards that began when Slatten fired upon a white Kia sedan. The witness, Sarhan Dheyab Abdul Monem, provided the jury with an important account of how the shooting unfolded, recounting how he had seen rifle barrels sticking out from the trucks in the guards’ convoy and how he heard the first shots from the truck.

He testified that he had a firsthand look at the mortally wounded driver of the white Kia— a shooting death that prosecutors said was the first burst of violence in the attack — and tried to come to the aid of a female passenger.

In his victim impact statement, however, Monem said he stayed in his police booth during the shooting, “unable to move or to act,” defense lawyers wrote in their motion. And he suggested that the driver was still alive during the incident and trying to get out of the car, rather than killed by ambush.

“I feel guilty for not being able to help the doctor and his poor mother in the incident, I could not do anything,” the lawyers quote Monem as saying in his statement.

Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said prosecutors were reviewing the motion and had no immediate comment. There was also no immediate response from the trial judge, Royce Lamberth.

The men were charged in the deaths of 14 Iraqis and the injuries of more than a dozen others.

The firearms convictions alone carry 30-year mandatory minimum sentences, though defense lawyers have said such a penalty would be unconstitutionally harsh. The first-degree murder conviction brings a mandatory life sentence.

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