On Friday, the US Court of Appeals threw out the murder conviction of one Blackwater employee from 2007. The other three guards convicted of manslaughter also had their sentences overturned.
The US Court of Appeals called for a review of the three guard’s sentencing who were all given 30-year jail terms for manslaughter and for committing a felony with military-style weapons. The US Court of Appeals also stated that Mr. Slatten’s murder conviction must be tried separately from the other three guards.
This case has been ongoing since 2007, through multiple courts and prosecutions. In 2008 a judge threw out the case after he found the prosecution had used inadmissible evidence in court. In 2013 the case was reopened through a federal appeal and the four guards were found guilty in 2014. This is now another step in the ongoing case and will be brought to court again as the individuals are retried/sentenced based on the findings of the US Court of Appeals.
Through the appellate proceeding, judges found that the three guards convicted of manslaughter were given cruel and unusual punishment by being tried for committing a felony with use of a military weapon. This law was originally designed to give tougher sentencing to drug cartels using high powered weapons to commit drug crimes. In addition, the court found Mr. Slatten, accused of manslaughter, did not fire the first shot that kicked off a gun-fight resulting in the deaths of civilians which was the prosecution’s original finding.
The case became a topic of international controversy as political heads looked to make amends with the Iraqi government. The families and the attorneys of the convicted showed gratitude towards the court’s findings. “We remain hopeful that all four of these men will be home where they belong sooner rather than later, but this was not the firm step in that direction that we had hoped or that the law required,” said Mr. Slough’s wife.