Death Penalty Case Begins Monday for Ex-Soldier Convicted in Mahmoudia Rape and Murders

As I wrote here, one of the ugliest atrocities to come out of the Iraq war was the rape and murder of an Iraqi teen and murder of her family members in Mahmoudiya. Jesse Spielman was sentenced to 110 years for his part in the crime, which LNILR said should have been prosecuted as a war crime. Another soldier, Spc. James P. Barker, pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty.

On Friday, the alleged ringleader of the group, Pvt. Steven Green was convicted of the rape and murders in a federal criminal court trial. He was tried in federal court because he was no longer in the military when the charges were brought. Relatives of the murder victims want the death penalty for Green.

The facts are really ugly. [More...]

According to accounts provided to investigators by other soldiers, Green and took several other soldiers with him to a nearby house intending to rape the woman. Green, according to an affidavit submitted by FBI Special Agent Gregor J. Ahlers in support of the arrest warrant, killed the woman's parents and young sister, raped the woman along with another soldier, then shot her in the head and set her body on fire.

There were four soldiers who went to the residence, knowing that the plan was for the girl to be raped. They are referred to in the affidavit as SO12, SO13, Green and KP1. You can read the affidavit for Green's arrest here. Page 6 lays out the events and players.

There was talk at the time that the kidnappings, murders and beheadings of U.S. soldiers in Yousifiya in June of that year were revenge for the March rape and killings in Mahmoudiya.

A jury in Paducah, KY will now decide if Green gets life or death. The AP reported in 2006 that the army knew Green had homicidal tendencies three months before the rape and murders.

Pfc. Steven D. Green was found to have "homicidal ideations" after seeking help from an Army Combat Stress Team in Iraq on Dec. 21, 2005. Green said he was angry about the war, desperate to avenge the death of comrades and driven to kill Iraqi citizens, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.

The treatment was several small doses of Seroquel a drug to regulate his mood and a directive to get some sleep, according to medical records obtained by the AP. The next day, he returned to duty in the particularly violent stretch of desert in the southern Baghdad suburbs known as the "Triangle of Death."

Green was discharged in 2006 as a result of his "personality disorder." Will he escape the death penalty? His lawyers will do their best, having laid the groundwork in the guilt phase for the idea that Green was not the only culprit:

[T]he defense team focused not on whether Green is guilty, but on spreading responsibility for the crime in an effort to avoid a death sentence.

In doing so, they're banking on the idea that the nine-woman, three-man panel will decide that Green shouldn't be put to death because so many people were to blame for the events leading up to the attack.

The strategy: not contesting Green was involved, but minimizing his role and spreading the blame around:

[T]hey've tried to paint the image of a military that mishandled soldiers in trouble with the aim of minimizing how liable Green was for the slayings.

In closing arguments, Wendelsdorf told jurors there was enough evidence to convict Green of second-degree murder, which would carry a lengthy prison sentence, but not a death sentence.

"Did Steven Green uphold the honor of the Army? Hell no," Wendelsdorf said. "Did the Army do its part? I think not."

Will the strategy work? Stay tuned.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Reading the details of the atrocity (none / 0) (#1)
    by MrConservative on Sun May 10, 2009 at 08:36:37 PM EST
    makes me feel so cold I can barely even move.  I still can't call for the death penalty, but I also can't imagine a death-proofed jury not handing it out.

    This is one of those cases (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mikeb302000 on Mon May 11, 2009 at 03:21:09 AM EST
    in which it's hard to deny that the guy is a good candidate for the death penalty. I don't try to deny that in cases like this.  Yet, I oppose capital punishment on the moral grounds that it's wrong. I don't say it's wrong just like the crime in question because each crime is different.  Often it seems to me, capital punishment is worse than the crime it's supposed to be punishing. When the State kills, there can be no mitigating circumstances and it's pre-meditated every time. Capital crimes, on the other hand, very often involve complicated mitigating circumstances that in my opinion diminish culpability, and as you pointed out in this post, a sharing of responsibility.

    Apologies for forgetting about vocabulary. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jacob Freeze on Mon May 11, 2009 at 03:25:57 AM EST

    Let the Iraqis have him (none / 0) (#5)
    by KoolJeffrey on Mon May 11, 2009 at 11:02:19 AM EST
    We turned Saddam over to them. Why not this guy? His actions sound like just another night out with the boys, Qusay and Uday.