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.