Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Steven D. Green's sentence hearing continues today

And so it began. Marisa Ford of the prosecution opened up by speaking about murdering children and how terrified Abeer Al-Janabi must have been before she was killed. "The murder of a child is an unspeakable act, especially an innocent child, which all children are. Abeer's last moments must have been filled with terror as she was raped while her parents and little sister were shot in the room next door. And then, by one of the men who was sent there to protect them, she was murdered."
Lots of legal jargon made it's way into the opening statements. Marisa Ford reminded the jury that they are encouraged and in fact, required to reconsider the evidence which was heard in the guilty phase of the trial. She spoke of imposing the death penalty, and how doing so requires that they, the jury, by law, must outline and note the aggravating circumstances, especially in the death of Abeer, which according to Ford was committed in an "especially heinous, cruel, and depraved manner."
She repeated how the four soldiers committed the crime on March 12th, 2006, and reiterated how they agreed on the plan, changed clothes, "brought weapons and took tools to complete their mission," and how they worked to cover up the evidence. She told the jury how they would hear of the impact on the victims, and how the Al-Janabi family was like many families from both Iraq and "right here in Paducah, Kentucky." She ended her opening by elaborating on a quote from Winston Churchill: "All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope." Ford defiantly expressed, "The defendant Steven Dale Green failed to live up to his duty, he didn't show mercy to Abeer, he took away the two remaining brother's hope for a normal life, he doesn't deserve mercy."

The above is from Evan Bright's "Hangin' in the Balance" in which he reports on the sentencing hearing of Steven D. Green, 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.

Steven D. Green

Green was found guilty on all counts. Last night, Ruth summarized the AP reporting on yesterday's hearing:

The Associated Press' Brett Barrouquere reports that today's sentence hearing for Steven D. Green included testimony from members of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi's family. He reports that cousin Abu Farras stated Abeer's brothers Mohammed and Ahmed no longer attend school because the killing of their two sisters and parents "destroyed their future. I'm sure if they died with their family it would be better for them." Mohammed is the older of the two brothers and he told the jury of "how his father taught him to ride a bike".

Also testifying yesterday from the family was Abeer's aunt. From Bright's report:

The first was "Amina" Al-Janabi (I know that is incorrect spelling so if you can correct me, leave a comment or email me!). She was Qassim Hamza's older sister. Qassim was Abeer's father. She spoke of having a good relationship with Qassim, of him having a normal life, mostly directed towards giving his family a good life. She broke down crying while on the witness stand, with tissues in hand, but she spoke strongly. "What I say about him…isn’t enough. He cared for all of our family." She went on to talk about how Qassim named his two daughters, Abeer and Hadeel, after her (Amina’s) children of the same name. She told of Fahkyriah(Abeer's mother) being a strong, powerful woman. She talked about Abeer's pride. "She was proud of being young, and she was proud of the freedom her father gave her. She was spoiled, her father never suppressed her." She almost 'boarded a tangent train', her voice elevating as she said, "their life is destroyed currently, by a crime committed against their family, the kids don’t go to school…" She spoke of young Mohammed and Ahmed running up to her "countless" times, devastated over their loss, and how they "want to suicide." Green's eyes widened as he heard this.
When asked how she, along with her family and the boy’s grandmother, had tried to care for the boys, she "tries to care and help, but that’s not going to be their mother and father for them." A picture of four young apparently Iraqi children was shown to the jury, and she named off Abeer, Mohammed, Ahmed, and Hadeel. This is the first time anyone has seen a picture of Abeer(at a different age) other than the one on her I.D. card. The defense didn’t present any kind of cross-examination for "Amina," or for any of the other witnesses.

Dave Alsup (CNN) notes that the hearing continues today with more testimony and he notes, " Green might become the first former U.S. soldier to face the death penalty for war crimes before a civilian court. The reason for the distinction: Green was discharged from the military before his crimes came to light." Meanwhile the Daily 49er editorializes that "War is turning Americans into what we despise most:"

The second incident is a clear-cut case of unjustifiable brutality. Last week, former Army Pfc. Steven Dale Green was found guilty of raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family. He now faces either death of life in prison.
According to the AP, Green's defense team had asked jurors to consider the "context" of war, saying "soldiers in Green's unit … lacked leadership." Defense attorneys also said the Army missed signs that Green was struggling after the loss of friends in combat, and offered little help to him and other members of his unit.
It is right that Green be punished, but there is little doubt his vicious acts were at least provoked by the horrors of war. If that's the case, why is he getting the book thrown at him while Ayala is receiving only probation?
Obviously, these cases differ tremendously. Ayala killed a man who set an innocent woman on fire while Green raped and murdered a young girl and her family without provocation. Violence is violence, however, and we simply cannot condone vigilante bloodshed because we believe it is justifiable.

Ayala is Don Ayala who shot Abdul Salam, a US prisoner in Afghanistan. The differences include that, while Salam was impisoned, he was questioned by Paula Loyd (an anthropologist who should have followed the ethics of her profession -- her failure to do so does not justify her death). Salam set her on fire. Ayala, a contractor (not a soldier), was found guilty of manslaughter for killing Salam following his setting Loyd on fire. Abeer, her five-year-old sister and her parents were not threats to Steven D. Green, had not hurt Green or anyone connected to him. They were attempting to live their lives in a neighborhood Green was supposed to be protecting. Ayala's response was not murder in cold blood. Had Ayala gone off and attacked Afghanistan children, his case might be seen as similar. Equally true, his defense was not "I'm not guilty but remember the 'context'."

UPI has a news brief on the case here. Bright covers all the witnesses, prosecution and defense, shares when Steven D. Green perks up and other details including defense attorney Patrick Bouldin's arguments:

He touched on Green's childhood, saying he "didn't have the greatest childhood, it was a broken home." There "was a fair amount of drinking, of neglect," he told. He talked about Green's needing a psychiatric follow up and how he didn't get it. He mentioned the lack of leadership. "In the prosecution's closing they talked about respect for life…yet here we are, debating the life of this man." He played on the empathy once again, saying, "All of you have the choice of life or death, any one of you has the power of life…. Green will die in prison, but by whose hand?" He went through some of the lawyer jargon with aggravating circumstances, etc, before ending with "The 1st Platoon…Bravo Company has suffered enough deaths…do we have to kill one more?" Green stood solemnly as the jury exited.

Touching on it isn't enough. The defense has done a lousy job from day one. Green's childhood was a nightmare (more than the press has let on) and if the defense is truly interested in saving Green from the death penalty, they're going to have to offer more than allusions to that fact.

The following community sites updated last night:

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

evan bright
steven d. green