Does Justice Dept.Have the Moral Authority to Ask For Steven Green's Death?
Last year, Jeralyn wrote about the 110 year sentence imposed upon Jesse Spielman for his role in what she called "the ugliest singular atrocity [she could] remember coming out of the Iraq War." Spielman was one of the soldiers tried in courts-martial proceedings for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl and the murders of her parents and younger sister in Mahmoudiya. Today Jeralyn wrote about the conviction and upcoming death phase of the trial of Steven Green, who fired the shots that killed the family.
The 110 year sentence should have disturbed "truth in sentencing" advocates, given that Spielman is eligible for parole after serving 10 years. But parole eligibility is only the opportunity for release, not freedom itself. Much more disturbing is the news that Spielman (and two other soldiers who were sentenced to terms of 100 years and 90 years) may be released after serving only 7 years, thanks to a deal they received for testifying against Green.
The three men could regain their freedom in 2013 not because new evidence persuaded a judge that they had been sentenced too harshly or because a parole authority decided they had been rehabilitated. Instead, they received the government's recommendation for an early release to reward them for cooperating with the government in the federal court trial of Steven Green. Green avoided a military trial because he was discharged and returned to the United States before the military investigation had been completed, thanks to a sergeant who tried to cover up the crime.
The guilt phase of the federal trial in Paducah ended this week when the jury found Steven Green guilty of 16 crimes, including four murders. Gail McGowan Mellor breaks down the verdicts in this useful post. The jury returns Monday to decide whether Green should get the death penalty.The three soldiers who testified against Green, having been convicted of conspiracy, are just as guilty as Green. They may not be equally culpable, given that Green fired the shots that killed the family members. But two of the soldiers helped each other rape the 14-year-old before Green attempted to rape her. All four attempted to conceal the completed crime by burning the girl's body before trying to burn down the house. And in this post, Mellor points to evidence that one of the men admitted picking the family to attack because he wanted to rape the 14-year-old, while another agreed to join the group if he could rape her first.
Why, then, does the government believe Green deserves the death penalty while the other three participants in the crime (not counting a lookout) deserve to serve only 7 years? Does ratting out Green atone for their atrocities? Did the Justice Department so desperately need their testimony? As Mellor tells it:
Green bragged about it, standing on a cot at the forward operating base saying, "That was awesome!" He later, more soberly, admitted the crimes to enlisted men, friends at home and another sergeant, Anthony Yribe.
The case against Green could apparently have been made without letting the other three walk free after seven years. Maybe the Justice Department believed the three men would be released soon after becoming parole eligible, and so believed they were effectively receiving only a three year sentence reduction. Even if that were true, the Justice Department should explain why these men deserve to go free after seven years if Green deserves to die.
Having agreed to recommend the release after seven years of the man who picked the target of the rape, who reportedly planned to leave no witnesses and who enlisted Green as the shooter, who held the girl down as his friend raped her and then raped her himself -- having agreed this man deserves only a seven year sentence, where is the government's moral authority when it argues that Green deserves death?
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