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Trial continues in death of 3 Iraqis

14 March, 2007

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FORT CAMPBELL: An attorney for a sergeant on trial for murder in the death of three Iraqi detainees characterized one of the deaths as a "mercy killing."

"Sgt. Girouard is facing murder for the mercy killing, and Graber got aggravated assault and nine months in prison," attorney Anita Gorecki said.

Girouard, 24, is the last and most senior soldier from the 101st Airborne Division to face trial for the killings during a May 9 raid on a suspected insurgent camp outside of Samarra, Iraq . He is accused of ordering soldiers in his squad to kill the men and cover up their crime as self-defense.

Two main witnesses against Girouard testified in the opening day of testimony Tuesday that he gave them the order to release the three men and then shoot them as they fled.

Hunsaker and Pfc. Corey Clagett pleaded guilty to murder and cooperated with prosecutors and were sentenced to 18 years in military prison.

"I shot him (the first detainee) where his heart should be. I moved from right to left. I took aim in the same manner and aimed for the heart and the head," Hunsaker said.

Clagett testified Tuesday night that he participated in the killings and the cover-up to impress his squad and his squad leader. He said he dropped a knife near a detainee‘s body to make it look like the detainees had attacked the soldiers.

Other soldiers in the squad who have not been charged said they also heard Girouard‘s plot to kill the men while on their mission but didn‘t agree or go along with it.

A judge ruled last week that Steele won‘t be forced to testify, but defense attorneys could cross-examine the witnesses about their understanding of Steele‘s order.

Courtesy - KRISTIN M. HALL, AP Writer

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