Court Overturns Murder Conviction And Long Sentences For Ex-Blackwater Contractors

Blackwater guard's murder conviction tossed; mandatory sentences for others found unconstitutional

Blackwater guard's murder conviction tossed; mandatory sentences for others found unconstitutional

Fourteen people died and at least 17 were wounded in the incident in Nisour Square in Baghdad, which strained global relations and drew scrutiny of the role of American contractors in the Iraq war. But one juror said another juror asserted during deliberations that Echavarria would walk free with time served if he were convicted of second-degree murder.

The court also ordered resentencings for three others convicted in the case.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered on Friday a new trial after tossing out the murder conviction of Nicholas Slatten, the former security contractor.

They were each given a 30-year minimum sentence for using military firearms while committing a felony.

Three other guards, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, were convicted on multiple counts of manslaughter and attempted man slaughter, and sentenced to 30 years and one day in prison.

By overturning his conviction, the court has forced the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute again.

It could not immediately be determined if Slatten would be retried.

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The 2007 massacre took place at a Baghdad traffic circle, where the four guards opened fire on unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, killing 14 people and leaving 17 others wounded.

"In reaching this conclusion, we by no means intend to minimize the carnage attributable to Slough, Heard and Liberty's actions", said U.S. Circuit Judge Karen L. Henderson, writing for the court.

Heard, Liberty, Slatten and Slough worked as security guards for Blackwater, a private security firm under contract with the State Department, in Iraq. Blackwater claimed the security guards were under attack, but dozens of witnesses traveled from Iraq to testify the guards fired without provocation, according to CNN.

The four men were part of a Blackwater convoy tasked with providing security for a US diplomat. That statute, typically employed against gang members or bank robbers, had never before been used against overseas security contractors working for the US government.

Slattern's lawyer contended the evidence presented by the prosecution at trial didn't support the more serious charge he faced, and that he was a victim of vindictive prosecution.

Blackwater Worldwide - whose founder and former CEO Erik Prince is the brother of current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos - has since changed its name to Xe Services and later to Academi.

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