Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Combat stress defense?

Here is more on the rape/murder case being presented to the U.S. military court (Article 32 investigation) in Baghdad. It looks like "combat stress" may be offered as a defense of some kind. Again, death penalty trial counsel are often asked to defend what many would think is "the indefensible."

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A U.S. military court deciding whether four soldiers should be court-martialled for rape and murder heard on Tuesday how troops were "driven nuts" by combat stress and got high on Iraqi cough syrup. Private First Class Justic Cross described how conditions "pretty much crushed the platoon", which lived in constant fear of being killed in the Mahmudiya area south of Baghdad where the rape and murders took place in March. "It drives you nuts. You feel like every step you might get blown up. You just hit a point where you're like, 'If I die today, I die'. You're just walking a death walk," he said.

On Monday, the court at Camp Liberty heard graphic testimony of how three of the soldiers took turns raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl before murdering her and her family. The case has outraged Iraqis and led Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to call for a review of foreign troops' immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. Mahmudiya is part of what Iraqis call the "Triangle of Death" for its frequent attacks and kidnappings by insurgents and al Qaeda militants.

Private First Class Jesse Spielman, 21, Specialist James Barker, 23, Sergeant Paul Cortez, 23 and Private First Class Bryan Howard, 19, face charges of rape and murder among others. If court-martialled after the Article 32 hearing -- the military's equivalent of a U.S. grand jury -- and found guilty, they could face the death penalty. The hearing began on Sunday and is expected to last several days.


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