From Murder Conviction to Mistrial in Case of Blackwater Guard’s 2007 Shooting of Iraqi Civilians
After 18 days of deliberation, on Wednesday the retrial of former Blackwater Security guard Nicholas Slatten for a 2007 shooting which killed 14 Iraqi civilians in a traffic circle ended in a mistrial as jurors declared they came to an impasse.
Slatten was originally convicted of murder for the shooting and sentenced to life in prison along with three others who were sentenced for 30 years each and convicted on manslaughter charges stemming from the shooting. But a D.C. Circuit ordered a retrial declaring that Slatten should have been allowed to include the testimony of one of his co-defendants. Slatten was singled out as he is accused of firing the first bullet, but his co-defendant had sworn just days after the shooting that he and not Slatten had fired the first bullet.
The convictions of the co-defendants were also set aside upon the order of a retrial.
At issue is whether the shooting was unprovoked or not. Blackwater, a private security firm now known as Academi and founded by Erik Prince, was escorting a diplomat through Baghdad. The convoy drove through Nisour Square and opened fire on civilian cars also driving through the circle which resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians and injured 20 others.
Blackwater guards claim a white Kia van was traveling through the circle on the wrong side of the road and was not responding to their efforts or local police efforts to get the car to stop. The Blackwater guards believed they were under attack and fired upon the vehicle killing the young medical student and his mother in the car along with the police officer addressing the car. Other Iraqi police officers fired back in response to the shooting of the officer.
The Iraqi government has always claimed the shooting was unprovoked. The shooting resulted in intense criticism of Blackwater and the use of private security firms in foreign combat situations.
In November of 2007, the FBI released a report saying 14 of the 17 civilian deaths were unjustified and violated rules governing the use of force. The report also said it found no evidence to support claims that the Blackwater convoy was fired upon by civilians.