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).
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.
The mass killing at a traffic circle in Iraq's capital city on Sept. 16, 2007 was notable for its sheer brutality, and brought into focus concerns over the growing number of private military contractors working alongside U.S. military forces in Iraq and other mideast war zones.
Erik Prince, the founder and chief of the many-times-renamed firm at the center of this story, is now advising President Donald Trump's regime on how to further privatize American military operations overseas.
We'll always have the Seychelles.
In the Reuters photo above from September 20, 2007, one of the people who was wounded the Blackwater shooting attack is helped by his relatives in a hospital in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the time said the U.S. embassy should stop using American security firm Blackwater after the deadly shooting, saying he would not allow Iraqis to be killed in "cold blood".
PHOTO, TOP: Blackwater Worldwide security guard Nick Slatten (C) and attorneys leave the federal courthouse after being arraigned with 4 fellow Blackwater guards on manslaughter charges for killing unarmed civilians in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad, in Washington in this January 6, 2009 file photo. (Reuters)