Jurors Begin Deliberations In Court-Martial Of Soldier Accused In Iraqi Detainees Deaths

Friday, March 16th 2007, 10:01 pm
By: News On 6

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) _ A jury began deliberations Friday in the court-martial of an Army staff sergeant accused of ordering his squad to kill three Iraqi detainees during a raid on a suspected insurgent camp in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Ray Girouard, 24, is accused of telling his soldiers to release the detainees they captured during the May 9 raid near Samarra, Iraq, and then shoot them as they fled. He is charged with premeditated murder.

Girouard is the last and most senior soldier from the 101st Airborne Division to face trial in the killings. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life without parole.

Girouard has testified that he lied to investigators about the slayings to protect his soldiers, and that he never told Spc. William Hunsaker and Pfc. Corey Clagett to kill the detainees.

After he discovered the slayings, Girouard said, he decided to help them fake an attack, cutting Hunsaker and punching Clagett in the face, and lying to superiors by saying his soldiers shot the detainees in self-defense.

In closing arguments earlier Friday, Girouard's defense attorney Anita Gorecki said Girouard did not plan the slayings and that prosecutors never provided a motive for Girouard to order the killing during the mission.

``It simply doesn't make any sense why he would take that opportunity to kill someone,'' Gorecki said.

Prosecutors, however, characterized Girouard as a liar who can't be trusted and that he only changed his story when the other soldiers agreed to make plea agreements.

``He helped cover up a war crime,'' said Capt. William Fischbach. ``This guy is all about cover-ups.''

Hunsaker, Clagett and another soldier, Spc. Juston Graber, have pleaded guilty to other charges. Hunsaker and Clagett testified that Girouard gave them the orders, while Graber testified that the soldiers were given an option to participate in the plan to kill the detainees.

Clagett and Hunsaker pleaded guilty to murder and each were sentenced to 18 years in prison. Graber pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for killing a wounded detainee and was sentenced to nine months.