By Brett Barrouquere
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
PADUCAH, Ky., April 27 -- A former soldier charged with raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her family went on trial Monday, with prosecutors saying that he set the girl's body ablaze after shooting her several times.
Steven D. Green, 23, of Midland, Tex., faces more than a dozen federal charges, including sexual assault and four counts of murder, stemming from the March 2006 attack in Iraq's so-called Triangle of Death. After he shot the girl in the face several times, Green used kerosene to set fire to her body, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Skaret said in his opening statement.
"They left behind the carnage of all carnage," Skaret said of Green and other soldiers accused in the attack on March 12, 2006.
The defense, in its opening statement, asked jurors to consider the extraordinary circumstances that Green had confronted while serving in Iraq. Green, who has pleaded not guilty, is being tried in a civilian court because he was discharged from the Army before being charged.
Skaret said the defendant talked frequently of wanting to kill Iraqis but, when pressed, would tell people he wasn't serious.
Skaret told jurors that a group of soldiers, including Green, were playing cards and drinking whiskey at a checkpoint near Mahmudiyah, about 15 miles south of Baghdad.
Talk turned to having sex with Iraqi women, when one soldier mentioned the al-Janabi family, who lived nearby, Skaret said. Soldiers then went to the home where, according to prosecutors, Green pulled the father, mother, and daughters ages 6 and 14 into another room, then pushed the 14-year-old out.
Skaret said Green used a shotgun to kill the three in the room with him and told the soldiers that the family was dead.
He then raped the girl and shot her, according to Skaret.
As the girl lay helpless, "Steven Green went over to the wall and picked up a gun and he shot her in the face again and again," Skaret said.
Later, Green would talk about the killings to superior officers, other soldiers and even civilian friends, Skaret said.
In Green's defense, attorney Patrick Bouldin painted a picture of young soldiers in harsh wartime conditions, lacking leadership and receiving little help from the Army to deal with the loss of their friends.
He said that before the attack, Green had lost five colleagues in combat, including four in a short span. Bouldin, a federal public defender, showed jurors a videotape of Green speaking at a memorial service for two sergeants who had died.
He said soldiers had lost so many friends and leaders they could no longer perform their duties.
"Context," Bouldin said. "You've got to understand the context."
Green's trial is being held in Paducah because of the western Kentucky city's proximity to Fort Campbell, on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, where Green was based with the 101st Airborne Division.
Other soldiers involved in the attack were prosecuted in military court, including two who pleaded guilty and acknowledged taking part in the rape, and a third who was convicted because prosecutors said he went to the family's home knowing what was planned. A fourth who stayed behind at the checkpoint pleaded guilty to being an accessory.
Green's separation papers, filed in the case, showed he received an honorable discharge in May 2006 after being found to have a personality disorder.
Bouldin didn't address why Green was discharged from the Army.