US court up­ends mur­der con­vic­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

WASH­ING­TON — A fed­eral ap­peals court on Fri­day over­turned a for­mer Black­wa­ter se­cu­rity con­trac­tor’s first-de­gree mur­der con­vic­tion, or­der­ing a new trial for the man pros­e­cu­tors say fired the first shots in the 2007 slay­ings of 14 Iraqi civil­ians at a crowded traf­fic cir­cle in Baghdad.

In a split opin­ion, the three-judge panel of the US Court of Ap­peals of the Dis­trict of Columbia Cir­cuit ruled a lower court erred by not al­low­ing Nicholas Slat­ten to be tried sep­a­rately from his three co-de­fen­dants in 2014. The 33-year-old con­trac­tor from Ten­nessee is serv­ing a life sen­tence for his role in the killings, which strained in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and put in­tense scru­tiny on the role of Amer­i­can con­trac­tors in Iraq.

The court also or­dered new sen­tences for the three other con­trac­tors, Paul Slough, Evan Lib­erty and Dustin Heard. They were each found guilty of man­slaugh­ter and firearms charges car­ry­ing manda­tory 30year terms.

The judges de­ter­mined those sen­tences vi­o­lated the con­sti­tu­tional pro­hi­bi­tion of cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment be­cause pros­e­cu­tors charged them with us­ing military firearms while com­mit­ting an­other felony. That statute, typ­i­cally em­ployed against gang mem­bers or bank rob­bers, had never be­fore been used against over­seas se­cu­rity con­trac­tors work­ing for the US gov­ern­ment.


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