From whether the government should be allowed to refer to nicknames of the defendants to whether the defense should be allowed to introduce a spreadsheet from Wikipedia listing every suicide bombing attack in Iraq between 2003 and 2008, lawyers on both sides in the upcoming trial of five employees of the company formerly known as Blackwater charged with killing Iraqi citizens are busy felling forests.
The charges stem from a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed at least 17 Iraqi civilians as a Blackwater convoy sped through a traffic circle.
A sixth Blackwater employee, Jeremy Ridgeway, pleaded guilty and told prosecutors how he and other guards used “automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians.”
With the trial scheduled for February. both sides have been heating up the legal rhetoric, arguing what can and can’t be introduced at trial.
In papers filed last Friday, the government charged that defense lawyers plan to “shift the focus of this trial from the shooting at Nisur Square to a history of war violence in Iraq, and introduce news media accounts of thousands of insurgent attacks in Iraq between 2003 and the present day.”
According to prosecutors, ” in recent discovery, the defendants have turned over:
“CNN web pages purporting to list every US soldier casualty in Iraq… including accidential deaths from helicopter crashes, friendly fire, etc.. an internet web page listing every contracor death in Iraq… including accidental deaths, heart attacks, etc…Wikipedia web pages listing every suicide bombing n Iraq… virtually none o which involved attacks on US contractors… and a 120-page spreadsheet that lists approximately 1,030 insurgent attacks in Baghdad based on various internet news reports — which again, describes very few, if any, suicide car bomb attacks on US contractor armored convoys.”
And, prosecutors state that more than 150 of those attacks occurred after the 2007 shooting and “therefore could not have any relevance to this case.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors have indicated that they are considering dropping the charges and while there are indications that they plan to do that so they can file new charges, defense lawyers, of course, see it differently, writing in papers that the case had become”untenable not merely because of a fundamental lack of inculpatory evidence, but also because, among other things, the trial team repeatedly mischaracterized the testimony of witnesses and excluded exculpatory evidence from the grand jury that indicted in the case.”
Defense lawyers also don’t want prosecutors to be able to tell jurors that one defendant allegedly is called “Extreme” and another, “Savage Viking.”
“Evidence of these alleged nicknames has nothing to do with any of the issues that will be presented at trial,” wrote defense lawyers.
And, of that wasn’t enough, the government is trying to get the judge in the case to close a January 7th hearing to the press and public, arguing that opening it up could result in classified information being disclosed.