Steven D. Green was convicted last Thursday in the gang-rape of 14-year-old Iraqi Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, her murder, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murders of both of her parents. His sentence hearing is ongoing and day four begins today. Evan Bright is in the courtroom, as he was each day of the trial, and he reports on yesterday's witnesses noting:
The defense brought Jim Isclaw to the stand. At entry, Isclaw winked at Green when their eyes met. Isclaw, a native of Alvarado, TX, is an assistant football coach, golf coach, and teacher at Alvarado High School, and has been there for 23 years. To be quite frank, he’s a good ol’ country boy, and he’s got the persona of one as well. In his face, you can see the hours/days/years spent in the hot(understatement) Texan sun, calling plays and yelling at players. The attorney got straight to the point by beginning with "Do you remember Steven Green?" Isclaw immediately fired back with "I'll never ferget 'im...there's some kids you just don't forget."
He spoke of meeting Steven in the summer of his freshman year for the football team’s two-a-day workouts during the summer. He spoke of Green living with his uncle, David. He highlighted on his memory of green: his far and few between class/school absences, "he had very good attendance...in fact I did some research and he only had four absences that entire year," and about his personality as he remembered it, "he was a very likable guy, very enjoyable, he was easy to spot and when you did see him you could count on him to put a smile on your face." He told of Green being a typical “knucklehead” and getting into small trouble. Defendant Green couldn’t help but to laugh. He spoke of Green’s unfaltering attendance at the varsity games, “he never missed a game."
He told of Green's undying sense of humor, "he was a funny guy, he'd do this one leg chicken dance at all the pep rallies." This humor/dance would become a recurring theme throughout the rest of the days' testimony. He gave the courtroom a laugh when he spoke of Green's "lack of" athletic ability in playing wide receiver. The jury and audience was shown a picture from the yearbook of Green on the football field, "looking for an opening" against Arlington Heights, to which Isclaw commented, "If he had the ball against Arlington Heights... We were either way ahead or way behind," bringing a few chuckles. Wolff began a difficult line of questioning in the witnesses by asking Isclaw "If Green were to be executed, what impact would that have on you?" Isclaw visibly thought about his answer, and you could almost see his stomach churning as he responded, "It'd….it would break my heart...(pausing)...he's one of my own. 185 days of school to get to know him, I know that don’t seem like much but he was always one that I liked and remembered…I’d be saddened...(pause)...I believe it'd crush me." No cross from the prosecution.
The next witness was Chase Bentley, a 24 year old from Lovett, Texas. He just completed his Masters Degree in Civil Engineering last week, and is already engaged with a wedding on December 14th, he told the court. He spoke of meeting Green during his junior year of high school, when Green was only a freshman(Green only attended Alvarado for his freshman year). As a requirement, football players must run track in the spring, which was where Green and Bentley met. When asked what his impression of Green was, he quickly spoke of having "only great memories. He was just one of the fellas" He spoke of Green being "the class clown….this guy was funny." When asked about his track running ability, Bentley grinned profusely for a few seconds before eluding to his opinion that "well…he was fun to watch, let’s just put it that way." Once again, his testimony ended with what his thoughts would be if Green were to be executed, “I couldn't imagine…(long, thoughtful pause)…he lost his father and….I can’t imagine that with a set predetermined date and…" His testimony ended there, again with no cross examination.
As you read Bright's report, you should notice that prosecutor Marisa Ford served an 'expert' his lunch yesterday. You should also note that she's not going after the people who knew Green. That's why the defense needs to stick with the people who can talk about Steven Green and not bring on these, "I have perused the court documents and it is my finding . . ." No one gives a damn. It's the sentencing. Stick to the people who know Green.
The big question appears to be whether the defense is going to get honest or not? They keep walking it up to the line and refusing to draw the pattern of Green's childhood as it relates to what took place in Iraq. If Green gets the death penalty, will they have regrets then? They have the information. They know what they need to do. If they think they're respecting Green's wishes, that didn't appear to be a concern during the trial.
Brett Barrouquere (AP) offers a report here. Like many in the press, he gives 'experts' added emphasis. The jury isn't seeing the press reports. The defense shouldn't confuse press reaction with the jury's own reaction. The jury convicted Green (on all counts) and to spare him the death penalty, they're not looking for legal loopholes. They know they can sentence him to death or not. What they're looking for is that there's a human being inside Green. (As Green feared June 30, 2006, when the FBI arrested him, "You probably think I'm a monster.") The defense's job is not to snow job the jury in the sentencing phase with a bunch of mumbo jumbo from experts, it's to demonstrate that a human being's life is at stake.
Paul Schemm's "In Iraq, an Exodus of Christians" (AP) reports on the exodus of Christians from Iraq and notes the US State Dept estimated there were 1.2 million Christians in 2003 and that the number has fallen to as low as 550,000 with other estimates even lower. Philippe Leclerc, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees acting rep in Damascus states Iraqi Christians who are external refugees are not planning on returning, "They simply do not feel safe enough. They cannot suffiicently count on state security or any other force to protect them." The reasons include the ongoing violence, the past threats and the fact that they are shut out of previous employment opportunities by the Shi'ite controlled government.
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