Steven D. Green

Steven D. Green
Click image for more information

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment