Steven D. Green

Steven D. Green
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Thursday, April 30, 2009

People kill people

Day 4

♫On the fourth day of trial, lawyers gave to Green-- yet another sweater vest, this time red.
For the first segment of today's proceedings, the prosecution called a plethora of FBI agents to the stand, most of which, in my humblest of opinions, didn't have much to say. First was Special Agent Steve Vogt. Vogt has been an FBI agent for 20 years, one of those he spent in Iraq. He testified that a month after arriving in Iraq, he was contacted for assistance in finding the AK47 that was allegedly used in the crimes. He spoke of using SONAR imaging equipment to search for the missing weapon. Pictures of the dive operation were examined and presented to the jury. He was also questioned about the inability to exhume the bodies of the victims.
For the defense, Bouldin pointed out the number of soldiers required to make the area safe for the dive.
Next up was Special Agent Christopher Lando. Lando was an agent in the Asheville, NC area at the times of Green's arrest. He said he was informed of Green's presence in the area and organized his arrest on the same day. After being arrested, Green allegedly commented to Lando that he "wished [the FBI] would've called, because [Green] would've just turned himself in." When asked if he wanted his grandmother to know the story, Green reportedly agreed before having a change of heart, saying "No no, I don't want to upset her." He was allowed to have "a cigarette or two" before being taken away in a police car. Wendelsdorf(D) deftly made light that it was a routine arrest for Lando, and that Green did not resist arrest at all.

Darren Wolff = Chris Cooper?
Special Agent Stewart Kelly was brought in, mostly to testify as to what Green had told him. According to Kelly, Green said things such as "You probably think I'm a monster," and "I knew you guys were coming," as well as "looks like I'll be spending the rest of my life in prison." He said that Green questioned on whether or not he would be tried in Federal or military court. Wendelsdorf once again pointed out that Green didn't resist, also that Green had returned to NC from one of his former Sergeant's funeral. Green allegedly said he knew that the FBI was coming and "wanted to enjoy his last minutes of freedom."
After the mid-morning break, the first of Green's co-defendants was called to the stand. Jesse V. Spielman appeared, wearing the typical "orange jumpsuit" worn by inmates. He told the jury how he asked to be placed in infantry because he "wanted to fight for his country." He also repeated things already mentioned in other testimonies such as Bravo Company's mission, and the length of stays at TCP2. He spoke of the aforementioned drinking and card games on March 12, 2006. He said he saw Spc. Barker and Pfc. Green talking, who "looked like they were having a private conversation." He said they went inside and started changing into all-black clothes which they called "ninja suits." He went on to describe Barker cutting through a fence with a Gerber multi-tool(which was exhibited to the jury). When Marisa Ford asked Spielman what he thought they were going to do, he hesitated before acknowledging that "heading out and roughing people up wasn't that uncommon so I figured we were going to a residence to rough people up." It was stipulated that Green did not participate in any other incident involving "roughing up" of Iraqis.

After the lunch recess, Spielman described entering the house and keeping watch while Barker and Cortez separated 14-year-old Abeer from her family. He agreed to hearing three gunshots and that, after asking Green if everything was okay, Green replied "everything's fine", before letting him see the bodies of Qasim, Fakrhiya, and Hadeel. He said he knew they were dead because there was "blood scattered on the wall & part of the father's cranium was missing." Accordingly, Spielman walked out of that room and witnessed the rape of Abeer. The prosecution lent the model of the Al-Janabi house to Spielman for better clarification of the events and how they happened. When an M14 shotgun was brought out for demonstrative purposes, the court enjoyed a moment of humor as Marisa Ford, holding the weapon, declared "Judge, these have all been rendered safe but since I clearly have no clue what I'm doing," "and you're pointing it at me," (D)Wendelsdorf added. Spielman was confused, "I didn't really know what to do," he said, "It was an unsafe area and three out of my four squad members were involved so I couldn't leave and run back to TCP2." He testified to seeing Green unbuttoning his pants and getting down between Abeer's legs and raping her, after which he took a pillow and put it over Abeer's head and fired an AK47 into the pillow, killing her. At this, the defendant was spotted looking down. He then watched Barker pour a liquid onto her body. While her body was burning, he added clothes and blankets to fuel the flames, "to destroy evidence," he said.
He continued, describing Cortez & Barker washing their chests and genitalia back at TCP2, and how he himself threw the AK47 into the canal. When asked why he didn't turn his squad members in, he "didn't feel right, telling on people [he] served with." He was also fearful of retaliation from his fellow troops.
On cross, it was easy to see Spielman recalling the events past. Wendelsdorf pinned him down to "hoping for a recommendation from parole board for giving truthful testimony in all cases involved." A picture of Spielman after graduation from boot camp was shown. Asked on his thoughts about heading to Iraq at that time, he "was looking forward to going over there. I was enthusiastic."
According to Spielman, Casica & Nelson were very friendly and courteous to Iraqis, often giving candy and school supplies to Iraqi children. Wendelsdorf questioned if anything changed his view of them. Spielman told of how he witnessed one of Casica's informants approach them at TCP2, shaking Casica's hand before drawing a revolver and shooting Casica and Nelson. Spielman gunned down the informant, saying that "It was devastating to me. Stories of kids, women, elders, really anyone could be an insurgent..." Asked if this event changed Green's view of Iraqis, he wholeheartedly agreed. "Yes, it changed everybody's view." The next subject was the explosive death of their superiors, Britt & Lopez. "It literally blew Lopez in half, and killed Britt too." Wendelsdorf reminded him that he had found Britt's jaw lying on the ground, to which he conversed "It's something you can't describe... they're alive and talking to you minutes before, then minutes later you're picking up their body parts."
The next point from the defense was the burning of the soldier's Forward Operating Base. All the soldiers lost their homely items. Letters, family pictures, programs from the memorial services of Casica and Nelson, and even laptops were lost. While soldiers were reimbursed for ~80% of the value of their material items lost, he said it was the niceties from home that mattered the most. He stated that Sgt. Fenalson was very adamant about shaking Iraqi hands. At this, Spielman said "I wasn't about to follow his advice and shake people's hands," implying the deaths of Casica & Nelson. "Fenalson cared more 'bout the Iraqis than he did us." His testimony ended there.

Spc. James Barker was brought to the stand next. I noted that every military witness, and the defendant, all showed their militaristic style, standing at attention when the "all rise," call came from the U.S. Marshalls. Barker said that on the day of the killings, they were playing poker and talking, mostly "bullshit at first, then Green turned the conversation to killing Iraqis." Barker admitted that he was the one who brought up the Al-Janabi house, having seen the house and family on a recent patrol; he also admitted that he first implied raping the girl to Green.
According to Barker, "Cortez took a little convincing to get him to come along. He said if we were gonna have sex with the girl, he wanted to go first." He testified to ushering the 5-year-old girl and father into the house, and then separating 14-year-old Abeer from her family. He said that he held Abeer's hands down while Cortez raped her in mere seconds, while Green shot the remaining three family members. When Cortez was finished, they switched places, with Abeer screaming and crying the entire time. Afterwards, Green raped her, and then shot her.

Trial adjourned early. Barker will be crossed tomorrow, expect Sgt. Casica to play a semi-significant role.


Day 3

The cross of Colonel Kunk got a little more exciting today. Green opted out of the sweater vest and in with a light blue button down(why am I writing about court fashion style?). During the cross, Darren Wolff once again had conflicts with Kunk. Questioned over the burning of the soldier’s FOB(forward operating base), Kunk testified that the soldiers “lost some of their personal property,” with Wolff trying to assert the morale downturn the soldiers would have had after losing their “homely” items. Wolff forced Kunk into agreeing that he did put all involved soldiers in the same place(TCP2) on March 12th. Kunk skillfully evaded saying what Wolff was trying to extrude from him(a la “maybe if I hadn’t put the soldiers there, it wouldn’t have happened”). Wolff then used the technology in the room to diagram the bases(touch screens with projectors, the drawings and exhibits being show to the jury). A re-make of said diagram shown here:

When confronted about his testimony in the other soldier’s Article 32s(courts marshal), Kunk consented to the fact that he had stated that Cortez, Spielman, and Green were all “wallowing in [their] self pity.” Green perked up at this segway in the back-and-forth. Down the hypothetical “road” a ways, proceedings stalled again when Wolff inquired as to whether or not Kunk had identified Green as having combat stress issues. “No I did not,” he denied. In his previous testimony, Kunk stated he had(plot thickens).
Kunk spoke of the time he counseled to Green about his officer’s deaths and the grief that came with it. He spoke of asking Green if he thought “all Iraqis were bad,” to which Green reportedly responded “no not all off the Iraqis are bad.” Kunk said he questioned Green about his meaning of “not all,” and that Green spoke of how frustrating it was to “not be able to tell who was an insurgent and who wasn’t.” One of the larger points in today’s events, Kunk admitted that Colonel Ebel, himself, and Captain Goodwin all knew that Green was having “violent tendencies towards Iraqis and wanted to kill them.”
Next, [former] Sgt. Anthony Yribe(“ya-ree-bay”) testified for the prosecution. Upon entry, Yribe nodded to his former soldier and friend across the courtroom(Green). The then-Sergeant was charged with derelict of duty and falsifying information to a superior officer; once brought to trial, Yribe signed a plea agreement allowing him out of the Army on an “other than honorable” discharge, in addition to truthful testimony in his co-defendant’s cases, obviously including this one.
Yribe spoke of his supervision of four soldiers, and of operations at the various TCPs, stating that TCP life consisted of “primarily guard duty.” He talked about his teamwork with defendant Green in rushing the bodies of Sgt. Nelson and SSgt. Casica back to medical facilities in hopes of saving their lives. Personally, I noticed the militaristic style that Yribe exhibited. Except when directed to explain further, all of Yribe’s answers consisted of short, curt replies of “yes” or “no.” Perhaps not a surprise but more of a formality, his direct examination with Prosecuting Attorney James Lesousky seemed oddly rehearsed at times.
He was questioned on the whereabouts of the bodies upon being called to examine the crime scene. The prosecution unveiled a to-scale model of the Al-Janabi house to assist Yribe with this, murmuring about being “careful” because it “cost a lot of money.”[Note: In general terms, the “United States” has spent or is spending anywhere from $4 to $6 million dollars in prosecuting and vying for the death penalty for Green…there’s your tax dollars at work, America]
Next were pictures that the former Sgt. Took of the crime scene upon his arrival. Skipping over the menial details… Exhibit 7D, a picture of Qassim Hamza Rasheed dead, laying face down on the floor with brain matter scattered in.. multiple places around him… caused several visible and audible grimaces within the crowd, with Green looking down but eyeing the jury. After pictures of all bodies were shown, Green was seen rubbing his eyes/forehead.
Yribe spoke of Green’s “confession” to the crimes, and of Specialist James Barker’s hearing the confession but saying nothing, something that the Defense would later play upon. As he spoke of his realization that Spc. Green was telling the truth, Def. Green anxiously bit his nails.
When attorneys asked Yribe why he didn’t turn Green in, Yribe murmured, “It was kind of….out of sight out of mind? I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.”
During his cross-examination, Yribe was, for the most part, accepting and cooperative. As previously mentioned, Yribe was questioned on Barker’s presence during Green’s “confession” to the murder. The defense made light of Green’s confessing that he and he alone did the murders, with Barker saying nothing and confessing to nothing, even though he had every opportunity to do so. Scott Wendelsdorf(D) pondered, “Is it true that if Green had said nothing to you, these crimes would have gone unsolved?” to which Yribe confirmed. Wendelsdorf also pointed out that the only lie Pfc. Green told was that he was the only one who committed the crimes, while Barker “stood there, cool as a cucumber.”
When the cross showed pictures of Casica & Nelson’s assailant/murderer(gory…more brains), Yribe stated that what [we in the court] were seeing was “not that bad.” He testified that the deaths of Casica, Nelson, Britt, and Lopez would have “absolutely affected the morale of the troops.” Defense attorneys asked how long a soldier could live in the conditions that the five soldiers involved were living in, before succumbing to fatigue and sleep deprivation. “3 to 4 days,” Yribe answered, “I mean it’s 120ยบ out there, it’s kind of hard to sleep.” Regarding the morning IED searches, Yribe sadly intoned “you get used to the fact that you’re gonna die, you become numb, fatalistic.” The cross inquired: When asked how you could tell if someone was a good guy or a bad guy, Yribe flatly stated “You couldn’t.” “This war didn’t break you did it?” “No.” “Do you know people it has broken?” A curt, definitive “yes.” “Destroyed…?” “Yes.”

On that note I’m going to end this particular blog post. It’s 1 AM. Yes, some CID agent named Terry testified for nearly three hours. But whereas Yribe testified for two and I got seven pages of notes out of him, Terry testified for three hours and I only got half of a page. Minus a legal squabble over a shell casing, the only “important” thing was that an investigation occurred.
Notes: -Many objections today, and much sustainment, causing one Attorney Wendelsdorf much frustration, albeit I think he tried to hide it.
-For those not living in Paducah and unable to see for themselves, the NSA allegedly had watch over the court house for a month prior to the trial’s beginning for fear of bombs/retaliation. Even as the court proceeds, police officers are stationed on three street corners outside the front door of the courthouse.
-Expect the blogs to decrease in size—I, being an almost graduated high school student, must maintain grades so that I can indeed graduate, therefore I won’t be at the courthouse all day everyday as I have been. Don’t worry, I won’t miss anything important, therefore you won’t either. Keep spreadin’ the word, folks!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"War is Stress"

Day 2
Today began with the cross-examination of Colonel Todd Ebel. Although Green chose the darker grey sweater vest, he appeared to be in a lighter mood, at times smiling and conversing with his lawyers. In fact, the entire court came across as more courteous, if at times getting semi-quarrelsome. Defense Attorney Darren Wolff was very cordial in his cross of Col. Ebel. Even when he seemed to reach a brick wall in questioning Ebel if he’d ever fired his weapon in combat (he didn’t), he showcased a calm, professional style, asking Ebel not to “dumb down” what he was saying, but to instead translate his “military speak into civilian speak” for the jury. Laughs were heard from all parties present in the courtroom when Ebel was questioned about the structure of the military ranking system, “Well, I outranked the highest commanding officer over there, but I’d never tell him what to do.” Wolff spent most of his cross pointing out faults in the Colonel’s leadership. Ebel agreed that he had sat down for 30 minutes to speak with Defendant Green after the deaths of his commanding officers Casica and Nelson. A minor breaking point was reached when Wolff finagled the Colonel into admitting that he could not recall any other incident where he had sat down with a soldier for any amount of time after the deaths of said soldier’s superiors. The next witness called was Colonel Thomas G. Kunk (how ‘bout that for a last name!). Kunk was a Lieutenant Colonel under Ebel with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and was Battalion Commander of the 1st Battalion, commanding around 1100 soldiers during the tour of duty in question (Col. Ebel commanded ~7500 troops). Prosecuting Attorney Marisa Ford questioned Kunk about his background in the military, as well as [obviously] his service in Iraq. Kunk explained how he played a major organizational roll in the training of the Iraqi Army back in 2006, and how he used various platoons to help train the Iraqi soldiers. He discussed the tasks of his battalion, with Ford extruding details about Bravo Company’s specific mission. According to Kunk, Bravo company’s mission was to A) disrupt enemy missions, B) bring security and stability to the Mahmuhdiya region, and C) to train the Iraqi security. More specifically, he spoke of the platoons stationed at J. C. Bridge, and their respective goal of preventing any force from traversing the bridge, east or west. He spoke of his unsettling feelings upon his arrival at the bridge, saying that “8 men at the western end of the bridge… that did not sit well with me.” Furthermore, Kunk spoke of rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure: protecting a water treatment facility while living there, and how his soldiers began working on infiltrating or engaging lands where U.S. soldiers previously hadn’t been able to go by way of earning the Iraqi people’s trust. “Some would say you gotta win people’s hearts or minds, well, I think that to win people’s hearts and minds, you first have to earn their trust and their confidence.” Though proceedings appeared to be more formal and in motion today, and even though both sides of the trial were quite courteous and helpful to each other, when objections were called, things appeared to get heated, with both sides exhibiting more rambunctious hand motions and snippy whispers, appearing to have mini-tantrums in trying to get what they wanted from Judge Russell. Next, he was questioned on the deaths of Specialist Lopez and Lieutenant Britt; they had completed a search for, and found, 15 IEDs when they spotted yet another IED which exploded when they traversed a canal to inspect the bomb. Kunk said he questioned those soldiers who knew the superior officers to insure their health and mental stability. He testified that the deaths “didn’t just hurt the 8 soldiers in the squad, or the 30 in the platoon, or the ~130 in the company, it hurts us ALL.” When asked if he spoke with then Pfc. Green about the deaths, Kunk evasively replied, “It’s possible.” [Defendant] Green perked up at his answer. The Colonel attempted to showcase his… for lack of a better word, manliness, at times seeming exaggerated or, in all honesty, even forged (that’s just my take). After being injured on/around March 8th by an IED while traveling in an M1151 (pictured below)
An M1151 -> A common humvee
Kunk refused a medivac to the nearest hospital, saying, “If you go out by medivac, sometimes you don’t come back…I wasn’t leaving my men… not to be cavalier.” A major point of interest in the trial, Kunk brought in controversial new testimony regarding the hearsay surrounding the March 12 slayings: the Colonel asked lesser officers that reported to the scene if any rumors were circulating about who committed the crimes. Kunk testified that officers only told him “the insurgents…some kind of sectarian violence.” Again with the fabrication, the witness stated, “something about that just diiiidn’t sound right to me.” This caused several murmurs in the crowd, specifically within the press section. Kunk has never mentioned any of this in any of his previous testimonies regarding the Mahmudiya killings. Kunk continued, speaking of his recommendation for the discharge of Green, and of his notification regarding the killings and that they “might have been committed by U.S. soldiers.” After being informed, Kunk called his superiors until all proper parties had been informed, “I either had to prove it or disprove it.” Even on cross, Kunk was all encompassing in his tales of wartime. He told of Bravo Company’s attempts to get schools back in order, to get medical services up and running, and running water, “things we take for granted here in the U.S.,” Kunk added. Darren Wolff returned once again for cross. A big issue was made of how “engaged” Kunk and his respective peons were, and what they thought of each soldier’s ability to “choose to do the harder right than the easier wrong.” When asked what he meant by this, Kunk gave an explanation to the amount of “choosing the harder right by retaliating against true enemies, as opposed to the easier wrong by killing innocent Iraqis.” The next topic was Captain John Goodwin. Kunk stated, “It was reported to me that Cap’n Goodwin had a ‘thousand yard stare’ and looked lethargic.” Wolff pinned Kunk down in forcing him to admit that when Kunk asked Goodwin to list where his soldiers were located, Goodwin was unable to do so, thus making Goodwin “not an engaged leader” as was previously stated. In response to this, Kunk stated that he recommended a 3-day leave of absence for Goodwin because, “If you can’t do the small things right… when it’s tough, you won’t be able to do the complicated things.” The last point military lawyer and defense attorney Darren Wolff made regarded the TCPs. Wolff was once again extremely professional in his actions and questioning. He was quick in bringing the differences between TCP 1 and TCP 2 to light (note: Kunk had stayed overnight in TCP1, and Def. Green was located at TCP2). Whereas TCP1 had at least 10 Iraqis and 8 U.S. soldiers on hand at all times, TCP2, the check point where Green and his fellow convicts were stationed, had a mere six U.S. soldiers. While TCP1 had sandbag barriers surrounding the checkpoint, working electricity, and a bathroom, TCP2 had none of these. Kunk, his egotistical side showing, proudly proclaimed “Sometimes I slept in the litter because I gave the cots in the TCP to my soldiers.”(Note: a litter is a stretcher used for bodies) In the end Kunk admitted, “We were asking an awful lot of our men… war is stress.” Other notes of today’s trial:
-The Press Section was asked twice today to be quiet during the objections while both prosecution/defense were at Judge Russell’s desk.

-A co-defendant's attorney, name witheld, present in court every day thus far, was escorted out of the courtroom after being found using a cell phone.

Monday, April 27, 2009

How We Got Here

Day 1
(Preface: I have been writing this kind of story for newspapers for my entire[albeit quite short] journalistic life. Making the sudden change to blog style posting has been a combination of interesting, difficult, and innundating. I'll be refining the style with which I write these.)
Proceedings began today. Defendant Steven Green entered the courtroom appearing in a champagne sweater vest, seeming jaunty and aware in light of his situation. Federal District Judge Thomas B. Russell was thorough in his swearing in of the jury. A minute Southern drawl making it’s way into his voice, Russell made sure to instruct the jury to not discuss any of the proceedings outside of the court, also noting that they should “change the channel” should they hear anything about the case via television or radio.
Prosecuting attorney Brian Skaret, tall and gangly in stature, was very clear in his depiction of Green’s crime of heinous gang rape/murder: “While most of you were probably here at home in the USA, enjoying a sunny day, getting used to the warming weather, some of you were probably anticipating the upcoming March Madness tournament…on the other side of the world, in Iraq, five soldiers, five thugs, were terrorizing a harmless family.” Skaret told of Abeer Al-Janabi’s rape and murder, how she was “violated and dishonored three times, then mercilessly shot.” He was accurate in playing the role of the prosecution, projecting a cold image onto the Green canvas. “Who could’ve done this,” Skaret asked rhetorically. “Not terrorists, not insurgents, but by the Army. In cold blood, then Pfc. Green orphaned two young sons.”
Each individual jury member had their own personal screen for viewing the various diagrams and exhibits. During the prosecution opening, the faces of Green and his former fellow troops were shown. Skaret projected the squad (excuse my misuse of military terms) having a regular day, playing card games, drinking Iraqi whiskey, until they began talking about the house they’d seen on patrol. Green was seemingly anxious at this point, one hand on his forehead and the other appearing to be writing notes. Skaret, sorrow ebbing in his voice, told the court of Abeer’s shooting death. He reminded the jury that “this isn’t television, this isn’t CSI or Law & Order,” also that “[some of] these witnesses are no angels, they hope by testifying in this trial to someday make parole…evaluate their testimony very carefully… it’s not about the lawyers, or the 20 page questionnaires. It’s not about the bumper sticker on the back of your car.”
Skaret told of the witnesses whom he and his team would call: witnesses who testified today include orphaned child Muhhamed Al-Janabi, Marti Al-Janabi or “Abu Farras,” uncle of the orphaned twins, Ahkmed (spelling?), a medic who reported to the crime scene, and took photos of the bodies, a Dr. who filled out the death certificates, and Colonel Todd J. Ebel, the commanding Brigadier General who was in place during defendant Green’s tour in Iraq.
While the prosecution’s opening largely focused on March 12, 2006 and the events therein, the defense’ opening focused on the events leading up to the day of the atrocity. Public defender Pat Bouldin told of the “most tragic of circumstances,” which culminated in the March 12 massacre. He also openly admitted that, “what [Atty. Brian Skaret] said the truth. I want that said at the onset of this.” He spoke of the deaths of many soldiers platoon that the soldiers were in. Also showcased was a video of the memorial service of SGG/SGTs Travis Nelson and Kenith Casica. Via a PowerPoint presentation, Bouldin presented to the court pictures of every day Iraqis and (perhaps rhetorically) asked if he himself or anyone in the court could say as to whether or not the man pictured was an insurgent, hinting at the defense his team plans to use. He spoke of Ctc Kunk being quoted as stating that the combat had made the squad of soldiers “mission incapable,” and recommended that the 1st Platoon be disbanded. Also mentioned was the burning of the soldier’s home base, which housed their belongings from home, the lack of supervision during the soldier’s stay at their traffic checkpoint. The defense is trying to explain that the soldiers became numb and accustomed to the violence around them, and that, over time, the soldiers were no longer able to tell civilian Iraqis apart, friend or foe.
The first witness called, Muhhamed Al-Janabi, was questioned on mostly background information, before leading up to the day of the crime. When asked what he saw upon entering his house after seeing smoke outside, he said flatly “I saw lots of flesh, and my father’s brains scattered against the wall,” eliciting some grunts and shudders from the “crowd”. I noticed defendant Green perking up to take a look at Muhhamed, a point of interest. Next was “Abu-Farras,” the uncle. He spoke of his job at the Ministry of Health, and his fourteen years in the military. He is 50 years old and he is in the United States for 14 days. This is his first time outside of Iraq, ever.
Farras spoke of his arrival to the scene on the day of, and scornfully of the soldiers who spoke to him while he was present. He told of how one of the soldiers said “look what the terrorists are doing!” At first, Abu-Farras wasn’t going to come to testify. “Even terrorists wouldn’t do that! I looked up to and respected the Army.” Abu told of how he became very distrustful of Americans, and how, after being asked to testify, he felt that “they [the Americans] would take me there [to the States] and do the same to me.” He obviously changed his mind, stating that he realized “not all Americans are bad, lots of them are good people.”
The medic, “Ahkmed,” was used mostly to illustrate the crime scene and the bodies, with pictures of the bodies being shown (more grunts and discomfort from the people in the courtroom). He spoke of how he covered Abeer’s body even after her burning death, “because I wanted to protect her honor, [even] while she was dead.” Again, the prosecution repeated it’s main point: when asked if he ever thought the US would be responsible, the medic sternly spoke, “No. I didn’t ever suspect the forces which came to protect us would be the ones responsible.” There was a small cross examination regarding whether or not the medic saw a soldier pick up a shell casing, but was menial in the end…
The doctor who examined the bodies for issuing the death certificates testified, again adding to the gory scene of the crime: “I saw that, on the father, all the brain was … out.”
Next to testify was Colonel Todd Ebel who spoke of his 27 years in the Army, including three tours in Iraq. Ebel was effervescent in his descriptions, at times seeming extremely sure of himself, and very informed as to what the court wanted to hear and what they did not. He spoke of how his leadership over the soldiers(including Green and his cohorts) led to the finding of more than 2200 IEDs(Improvised Explosive Devices--home made bombs), more than any other battalion. When asked about his confiding with Green after the deaths of Sergeants Nelson and Casica, Ebel noted “you could determine that he was making gross generalizations about ALL Iraqi’s,” but also noting that feelings of frustration were common after the death(s) of a fellow troop, “It’s like losing a family member, it’s an unfriendly event. We lose friends, family, teammates.”
Other things of note:
-The interpreter present at this trial is reportedly the same interpreter used for Saddam Hussein's trial. She was only present in the courtroom when needed.
-Known media presence at this time included the Associated Press, Reuters, local NBC affiliate WPSDTV, TIME Magazine, the Courier-Journal, and the French Press Agency.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Total Lapse of Humanity

A soldier who fought in Iraq is being brought to trial on rape and murder charges in our city. In what has been called a “total lapse of humanity,” the soldier could potentially face the death penalty in his trial which begins April 27 at the Federal District Courthouse in downtown Paducah.
On March 12, 2006, five soldiers from Kentucky’s own Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne Division stormed the farmhouse of the Qasim family in Mahmudiya, Iraq. Upon finding the family of four, Private First Class Steven Green and the other soldiers ordered three of the four family members into a room, where Green proceeded to shoot all three in the head. He emerged from the room, allegedly announcing “I just killed them, all are dead.” Soldiers then restrained 14-year old Abeer Qasim Hamza while Green and another private took turns raping her. After the rape, Pfc. Green shot and killed Abeer, and with assistance from his fellow troops, burned the lower half of her body.
As of this writing, all soldiers involved, except Pfc. Green, have been either indicted, charged, convicted, sentenced, and imprisoned. Specialist James Barker was sentenced to 90 years in prison, but will be eligible for parole in 20. Sergeant Paul E. Cortez pleaded guilty to rape, and four counts of murder. He was sentenced to 100 years, and will be eligible for parole in 10 years. Pfc. Jesse Spielman was given 110 years in prison, eligible for parole in 10. Pfc. Bryan Howard was sentenced to 27 months in prison for being an accessory (not reporting the crime).
Private First Class Stephen Dale Green is the only soldier who hasn’t been sentenced. He has been indicted on, and plead not guilty to, charges of murder and sexual assault. But because Green was arrested after his discharge, and after his return to the United States, the trial cannot be held via court martial as the other soldier’s trials were. He is to be tried in Federal Court, and due to the Paducah courthouse being the closest one to Fort Campbell, he will be tried at the courthouse in downtown Paducah under Judge Thomas Russell.
His one of a kind case is to be tried on April 27 at the Federal Court in downtown Paducah. This will be the first court case ever in which the government will try to sentence a soldier to the death penalty for offenses committed during wartime while overseas. Green’s lawyers have submitted motions declaring that Green’s defense will be to put the Army itself on trial for allowing Green to become a soldier. Prior to enlisting, Green had spent four days in jail for a minor in possession of alcohol ticket. Normally, the Army doesn’t allow applicants with a criminal history, but for Green, they accepted him via a legal form, which allowed them to waive his prior history. Not only this, but Green told military psychiatrists prior-to the incident that he felt anger and wanted to kill Iraqis. The psyche gave Green a drug for bi-polar disorder and released him, but failed to engineer a “safe plan,” as required, to keep Green away from Iraq civilians.
Due to the unique factors and controversy surrounding the case, there will no doubt be much spotlight in, on, and around Paducah from the national media syndicate. The trial begins Monday April 27.