Army sniper not guilty of murder

AP:

A military panel Friday acquitted U.S. Army Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval on charges he killed two unarmed Iraqis, but it convicted him of planting evidence on one of the men in attempt to cover up the shooting.

Sandoval, 22, of Laredo, Texas, had faced five charges in the April and May deaths of two unidentified men. He was found not guilty of the two murder charges, but the panel decided he had placed a detonation wire on one of the bodies to make it look as if the man was an insurgent.

Lawyers for Sandoval, who will be sentenced Saturday, said he should face no more than six months in prison for misplacement of public property, while prosecutors argued he should receive a five-year sentence for obstructing justice.

"Anyone who has been charged with murder for their first kill on the battlefield on the order of his superior and is found not guilty is happy," Capt. Craig Drummond, a defense attorney, said outside court after the verdict.

During the two-day court-martial, Sandoval's colleagues testified they were following orders when they shot the men during two separate incidents on April 27 and May 11.

Spc. Alexander Flores, who was in the same squad as Sandoval on the day of the April killing, testified they were acting on the orders of their platoon leader who said the suspect was "our guy" and ordered them to "move in," which they interpreted as "take the target out."

After the killing, Flores said Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley of Candler, N.C., told him to place a spool of detonation wire on the body and in the man's pocket.

But prosecutors cited an interview with Sandoval immediately after his arrest in which he said he planted the wire. Outside court, Flores stood by his testimony.

...

This case reminds me of some cases in Houston, Texas in the 1970s where police who killed people in confrontations carried what was called a "throw down gun" which was placed on the body to thwart inquiry into the shooting and create evidence of a justifiable killing. In Iraq the enemy is much more deadly than that faced by most police and he camouflages himself as a civilian which leads to tragic mistakes. Those mistakes should not be compounded with throw down detonation wire. If he had not been so cute he would not be facing any punishment now.

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