US soldier guilty in killing of Iraqis
VILSECK, Germany - A US Army medic was convicted of murder yesterday for his involvement in the execution-style slayings of four bound and blindfolded Iraqi detainees shot in the back of the head in spring 2007. The court sentenced him to life in prison.
Sergeant Michael Leahy Jr. was found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder by a nine-member jury in the court-martial at the Army's Rose Barracks Courthouse.
After a sentencing hearing, Leahy received a life sentence, with the possibility of parole. He will also have his rank reduced to private, his pay forfeited, and be dishonorably discharged.
Leahy, 28, was acquitted of murder in a separate incident involving the death of another Iraqi in January 2007. Wearing his dress uniform, he sat impassively as the verdicts were handed down by the foreman of a jury made up of officers and enlisted personnel.
Leahy pleaded not guilty to charges of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, and obstruction of justice in the deaths of four Iraqi prisoners whose bodies were dumped in a Baghdad canal in 2007 after they were killed.
Leahy, of Lockport, Ill., told military investigators that he shot one of the prisoners in the back of the head with a 9mm pistol.
In closing arguments, Leahy's civilian lawyer, Frank Spinner, argued that Leahy went along with the killings because he was dazed from a lack of sleep and numb from being in a war zone for months.
It was a sentiment bolstered Thursday in testimony from Colonel Charles Hoge, a doctor and director of psychology and neuroscience at the Army's Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
He testified that Leahy was unable to reason properly because of the constant danger of living and operating in a war zone and getting little sleep for months on end.
Prosecutors contended that Leahy knew what he was doing.
According to testimony at the court-martial, at least four Iraqis were taken into custody in spring 2007 after a shootout with a patrol that included five other accused soldiers.
The Iraqis were taken to the US unit's operating base in Baghdad for questioning and processing, although there was not enough evidence to hold them for attacking the unit. Later that night, patrol members took the Iraqis to a remote area and shot them in retribution for the attacks on the unit, according to testimony.
Leahy, Master Sergeant John Hatley, 40, and Sergeant First Class Joseph Mayo, 27, were charged in the deaths.
Three soldiers are scheduled for later courts-martial. Sergeant Charles Quigley, 28, of Providence, faces one charge of conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.
Mayo and Hatley are charged with premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, and obstruction of justice.