A US judge handed a life sentence to a former US Army soldier convicted in May of the gang rape and murder of a 14-year old Iraqi girl and her family. A life sentence was initially imposed because of the jury's failure to agree on a death sentence.
AFP - A former US soldier will spend his life in prison for the gang rape and murder of an Iraqi girl and the slaughter of her family, a judge ruled Friday.
Steven Dale Green was convicted in May of the 2006 rape and killing of 14-year-old Abeer al-Janabi and the murder of her mother, father and six-year-old sister in their home south of Baghdad.
He was considered the ringleader of a group of five soldiers who plotted the crime over whiskey and a game of cards at a traffic check point in Mahmudiyah.
Three other soldiers were given life sentences for the attack by military courts but will be eligible for parole in 10 years. A fourth was sentenced to 27 months in jail for acting as a lookout.
Green was tried in a civilian court after being discharged from the army due to a "personality disorder" before his role in the crime came to light.
Prosecutors had asked jurors to impose the death penalty, but were unable to reach the unanimous verdict necessary for an execution.
Judge Thomas Russell called Green's actions "unimaginable, unjustified and inexcusable" and gave him five consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole.
Green addressed the court in a rambling statement in which he tried to deflect responsibility for his crimes.
He called his actions "really messed up and wrong," but looked to the prosecution and said "you still don't know what happened. You weren't there."
"All I ever did was what they told me to do," Green said, adding that the group's ranking soldier - former Specialist Paul Cortez - "ordered all of this."
Green said the soldiers who went to Iraq were "strung out to dry" and that he hoped anybody thinking of volunteering for service would see what happened to them and stay home.
"Y'all can act like I'm a psychopath or a sexual predator or whatever," Green told the court. "But if I had never gone to Iraq I would never have got caught up in anything like this."
During closing arguments at his initial sentencing hearing, Green was described alternately as "criminal and perverse" and deserving of the death penalty, and as a "broken warrior" whose life should be spared.
Green's attorneys argued he should have been relieved from duty after complaining repeatedly of combat stress and a desire to kill Iraqi civilians.
Prosecutors said Green was not acting on impulse and should pay for "a planned, premeditated crime which was carried out in cold blood."
Testimony delivered during the trial painted a horrific picture.
Cortez and another soldier described how they changed into black silk underwear and masks so they would look like insurgents and headed for the house of a girl they had seen walking through the village.
They testified that Green took Janabi's parents and sister into another room and shot them while two of the other soldiers raped her. Then Green took his turn with the sobbing girl before putting a pillow on her face and shooting her dead.
The soldiers set the house on fire by tossing a lighter onto a Kerosene-soaked blanket covering her naked body. Then they went back to their checkpoint about 200 meters away and grilled chicken wings.
Green soon confessed to a sergeant investigating the March 12, 2006 atrocity.
But the involvement of US soldiers did not come to light until a few months later when stress counselors talked to the squad after an incident in which two soldiers were abducted at a checkpoint and later murdered.
Date created : 2009-09-04