A US federal jury will determine whether former soldier Steven Dale Green should be executed for raping an Iraqi teenager and executing the girl and her family, court officials said on Thursday.
It took the jurors less than two days of deliberations to find Green guilty on all 17 criminal counts, which included rape, premeditated murder and obstruction of justice. Three other soldiers were given life sentences in the March 2006 atrocity that was devised over whiskey and a game of cards at a traffic check point in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad.
Green, who was named as the ringleader, was tried in civil court after being discharged from the army because of a “personality disorder” before his role in the crime came to light.
While Green confessed to the slayings when army investigators were called to the scene the next day, the involvement of US soldiers did not come to light until stress counselors talked to the squad several months later.
Green’s mother, father and brother — who were not present during the trial at his request — are scheduled to testify on his behalf during the sentencing phase.
His attorney said the verdict was not a surprise because “we never denied his involvement in this case.”
“The goal in this case has always been to save our client’s life,” Darren Wolff told reporters. “We’re going to go to the most important phase, which is the sentencing phase, and we’re going to accomplish that goal.”
Lead prosecutor Marisa Ford declined to speak to the media after the verdict was read.
She told jurors during closing arguments that the grueling conditions and tragic losses suffered by Green’s unit in no way excused his actions.
“The evidence in this case suggests the defendant was acting purposefully and intentionally with full knowledge of what he was doing,” Ford said.
She said Green and other soldiers changed their clothes and disguised their appearance to throw suspicion on insurgents. They also burned the body of the 14-year-old girl, Abeer al-Janabi, and their own clothes to destroy any evidence that might link them to the crime, she said.
“This was a planned, premeditated crime which was carried out in cold blood,” Ford told the jurors.
But Green’s other defense attorney told the jury that the stresses of war had left the soldier a broken man in a strange world.
“Madness. Madness. That’s the only possible word,” Scott Wendelsdorf said in closing arguments on Wednesday.
Wendelsdorf blamed the crime on the lack of leadership at Traffic Checkpoint 2 (TCP2), where Green served with the other soldiers involved in the crimes at the Janabi home.
“They didn’t come there as criminals,” he said. “They were made criminals at TCP 2.”