U.S. court tosses murder conviction of Blackwater guard Nicholas Slatten in massacre of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians

A U.S. Federal appeals court today threw out the murder conviction of former Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten, who had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2007 massacre of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

Slatten and other former staff of military security contractor Blackwater (renamed Xe Services, now Academi, run by Erik Prince, brother of Trump DOE chief Betsy DeVos) were the focus of a high-profile legal case that has stretched on for a full decade.

Dozens of people from Iraq traveled to the United States for the trial, as we reported ten years ago here on Boing Boing. And the judge who sentenced Slatten to life in prison decided he was a nice guy who deserved a break (from the death penalty).

From Reuters:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered a new trial after tossing out the murder conviction of former security contractor Nicholas Slatten.

The three-judge panel said Slatten should have had a separate trial instead of being tried alongside his former colleagues. At a new trial, Slatten would be able to introduce evidence that one of his co-defendants had fired the first shot.

Separately, the court said Paul Slough, Dustin Heard and Evan Liberty, who were all convicted of manslaughter and other offenses over their respective roles in the incident, should be re-sentenced because their 30-year prison terms were too long. The court also threw out one of Liberty's convictions for attempted manslaughter.

No word from the Justice Department, or lawyers for the defendants. Read the rest

“The Warrior Class”: Blackwater videos in Harper's Magazine show brutality on display

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This month's Harper’s Magazine includes a feature by Charles Glass about the growth of private security firms since 9/11, “The Warrior Class: A golden age for the freelance soldier.”

The conclusion to the piece describes a series of videos shown to Glass by a source who had worked for the private-security company Blackwater (now Academi, formerly also Xe Services) in Iraq.

Above, one of the five Blackwater clips published online by Harper's. This one is dated April 1, 2006, and was shot from the front seat of the fourth car in an armored convoy. Glass describes its contents:

Driving along a wide boulevard in Baghdad, the lead vehicle swerved close to the curb of a traffic island. A woman in a black full-length burka began to cross the street. The vehicle struck the woman and knocked her unconscious body into the gutter. The cars slowed for a moment, but did not stop, nor did they even determine whether the victim was dead or alive. A voice in the car taking the video said, “Oh, my God!” Yet no one was heard on the radio requesting help for her. Most sickeningly, the sequence had been set to an AC/DC song, whose pounding, metallic chorus declared: “You’ve been… thunderstruck!”

As Glass notes, the tape ends with a still frame which reads: "IN SUPPORT OF SECURITY, PEACE, FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY EVERYWHERE."

(via Jeremy Scahill) Read the rest