Murder Conviction Overturned for Blackwater Defendant; Others to be Resentenced
There is a glimmer, but only a glimmer, of hope for the Raven 23 team from the Blackwater trial in 2015 after an appeals court on Friday overturned two convictions and disagreed with the sentencing on the others.
Nick Slatten’s Murder conviction and one of Evan Liberty’s convictions were overturned by the Federal Appeals court in a 2-1 decision. The court remanded Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard for re-sentencing, but their convictions were upheld.
Slattens’ request to be tried separately was at the core of the court’s decision to overturn the murder conviction.
The evidence in the 2014 trial was skewed, and the witnesses unreliable, yet the jury of mostly women who had never set foot in combat found the men guilty of numerous heinous offenses. The narrative of the prosecution was that the whole incident was a “massacre” by “out of control” contractors. Evidence to the contrary was dismissed.
At the sentencing in April of 2015, Judge Lamberth sentenced Slough, Liberty, and Heard to 30 years for a weapons offense that was written for drug cartel members and gangs, not US contractors who were given their weapons by the US State Department.
The appeals court today stated that it was “grossly disproportionate to their culpability for using government-issued weapons in a war zone.” They will be re-sentenced at a later date. The families are hoping for time-served so that their loved ones can be released.
With Slatten’s murder conviction being overturned, the government has the option of retrying him. If they do, it will once again be a long exceedingly expensive case. The trial in 2014 was several months long, and the government brought in numerous witnesses from Iraq at taxpayer expense. One witness even changed his narrative of the events after the trial.
Since the Nisour Square incident occurred in 2007, obtaining witnesses who remember anything accurately will be difficult.
Nick Slatten was convicted of murder, and was sent to prison for life at his sentencing. When he got up to make a final statement, he spoke emotionally to one Iraqi family, “I did not kill your family members.”
The families of Raven 23 have worked tirelessly to bring their loved ones home since the convictions. They are vowing to show up in force at the next sentencing, just as they did in 2015. The courtroom in April of 2015 was full of supporters of the Raven 23 team, so much so that even the judge’s voice broke when he saw it. We hope for true justice to be served for these men.
We wrote a full series on the Blackwater Trial. You can read those here:
- Battleground Raven 23 – The Sentencing
- Blackwater IV – Lives Destroyed by Lies
- Blackwater III- did the Government skew the evidence?
- Part II Were Blackwater Security contractors the fall guys?
- Inside the Blackwater Trial – I