Supreme court rejects Blackwater Iraq shooting appeal By James Vicini Posted 2012/06/04 at 10:31 am EDT WASHINGTON, June 4, 2012 (Reuters) The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by four BlackwaterWorldwide security guards who argued prosecutors made improper useof their statements to investigators in charging them with killing14 Iraqi civilians in 2007. The justices refused to review a ruling by a U.S. appeals court inWashington, D.C., that reinstated the criminal charges against theguards for their roles in the Baghdad shooting that outraged Iraqisand strained ties between the two nations. The shooting occurred as the guards, U.S. State Department securitycontractors, escorted a heavily armed four-truck convoy of U.S.diplomats through the Iraqi capital on September 16, 2007. |
The guards, U.S. military veterans, responded to a car bombing whengunfire erupted at a busy intersection. The guards told StateDepartment investigators they opened fire in self-defense, butprosecutors said the shooting was an unprovoked attack oncivilians. A federal judge ruled the defendants' constitutional right againstself-incrimination had been violated and the case was taintedbecause prosecutors improperly used statements made by the guardsto the investigators right after the shooting. But the appeals court disagreed that the indictment of the guardshad been improperly obtained through the use of their compelledstatements, a victory for the U.S.
Justice Department in ahigh-profile prosecution. In appealing to the Supreme Court, the attorney for the guards,Bruce Bishop, argued the government had compelled them to makepotentially incriminating statements. Later use of those statementsto charge the guards violated their constitutional right againstself-incrimination, he said. "The issue is of national importance," Bishop said.
"The privilegeagainst self-incrimination is a fundamental and universal value inAnglo-American justice." U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli from the Justice Departmenturged the Supreme Court to reject the appeal. He said the evidencethe government used to obtain the indictment was based onlegitimate sources independent of the guards' compelled testimony. The four guards - Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard andDonald Ball -- were employed by Blackwater, the controversialprivate security company which has changed its name to Xe Servicesand then to Academi. In the Iraqi and Afghan wars, Blackwater came to symbolize the U.S.policy of hiring private contractors to do work previously handledby the military.
Prosecutors have dismissed charges against a fifth guard, NicholasSlatten. A sixth guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, already has pleaded guiltyand agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. The State Department had ordered the guards to explain toinvestigators what happened under threat of job loss and hadpromised them limited immunity. The Justice Department saidprosecutors and FBI investigators did not make improper use ofthose statements in building their case. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal without comment.
(Reporting By James Vicini; Editing by Anthony Boadle).
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