Army Official Recommends Court-Martial for Soldiers
Sunday, September 3, 2006
An Army investigator has recommended a general court-martial, on charges that could carry the death penalty, for four U.S. soldiers who killed three Iraqi detainees during a May raid, according to a copy of his findings made available to The Washington Post.
The soldiers, all members of the 101st Airborne Division, maintain that they acted in self-defense after the detainees resisted, and further that they had been ordered, before the raid on an al-Qaeda training camp, to kill all military-age males they came across, attorneys for the soldiers said yesterday.
In a 10-page report dated Aug. 31, Lt. Col. James P. Daniel Jr., the Army investigator, recommended that three of the soldiers -- Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard, Spec. William B. Hunsaker and Pfc. Corey R. Clagett -- be charged with conspiring to commit premeditated murder of the detainees and then threatening another soldier not to tell anyone. Daniel found that Spec. Juston R. Graber withdrew from the conspiracy but still should face murder charges for following Girouard's order to shoot a detainee in the head.
In light of aggravating factors, Daniel wrote, the soldiers' alleged offense "warrants a sentence of death," should they be found guilty. All the soldiers are from the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne, based at Fort Campbell, Ky.
"I was extremely disappointed in the findings and recommendations," said Paul Bergrin, who represents Clagett. "Not one shred of credible evidence came forth that any one of these soldiers committed crimes or should face the death penalty."
"I was really shocked to see that on all of them," Michael S. Waddington, an attorney for Hunsaker, said, referring to the death-penalty finding. He said the soldiers believed they had captured al-Qaeda operatives, "so when they resisted and started to run, they dropped into a hostile status again, and under those circumstances it was a legal shooting."
A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, declined to comment on the report, saying it had not yet been officially released.
Daniel's report will go to the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner II, who will decide whether the case should go to court-martial and whether it will be a death-penalty case, the attorneys said.
Bergrin and Waddington said their clients, as well as the two other soldiers, plan to plead not guilty at a court-martial.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the commander in chief must personally approve all death sentences. The last execution of a soldier was in 1961 at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Army spokesman Lt. Col. Carl S. Ey said.
Details of Daniel's findings were first reported by the Associated Press.
Researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.