Courts & Crime

Former Blackwater guards found guilty in 2007 Iraq killings

Sept. 17, 2007 - A car still at a traffic circle in central Baghdad where a shoot-out with private security company Blackwater left 9 Iraqis dead and 15 injured. Witnesses said a woman and child were killed in the car.Iraqi officials said they were yanking the license of North Carolina-based Blackwater Security over the incident, saying the Blackwater guards had fired indiscriminately into crowds of pedestrians. (Hussein Kadhim/MCT)
Sept. 17, 2007 - A car still at a traffic circle in central Baghdad where a shoot-out with private security company Blackwater left 9 Iraqis dead and 15 injured. Witnesses said a woman and child were killed in the car.Iraqi officials said they were yanking the license of North Carolina-based Blackwater Security over the incident, saying the Blackwater guards had fired indiscriminately into crowds of pedestrians. (Hussein Kadhim/MCT) MCT

Another infamous chapter of the Iraq War closed Wednesday, as a jury convicted four former Blackwater Worldwide contractors charged with killing unarmed civilians in the violent streets of Baghdad.

The long-awaited verdicts came only after protracted jury deliberations that began Sept 2, and followed the seven-year anniversary of the Sept. 16, 2007 events at Baghdad’s Nisour Square. The former Blackwater men were charged with killing 14 civilians, in what prosecutors called a massacre and defense attorneys called a justifiable use of force.

Capping the deliberations that followed a two-month trial, the jury of eight women and four men found the government’s version most credible. Former Blackwater employees Dustin L. Heard of Maryville, Tenn., Evan S. Liberty of Rochester, N.H., and Paul A. Slough, a resident of Keller, Texas, about 18 miles from Fort Worth, were convicted of multiple voluntary manslaughter charges.

The three men were also found guilty of multiple counts of attempt to commit voluntary manslaughter.

Nicholas A. Slatten of Sparta, Tenn., was convicted of first-degree murder charges, which prosecutors filed after inexplicably missing a key court deadline and allowing the manslaughter statute of limitations to expire.

The four men, who showed no visible signs of emotion during the extended reading of the verdicts in a crowded courtroom, were taken into custody over defense attorney objections.

“We believe there’s a substantial likelihood that a motion for a new trial will be granted,” defense attorney Brian Heberlig said.

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