US Ex- soldier, Steven Dale Green, 22, has today been told by a federal judge in Kentucky that he is to face civilian trial on charges of raping a 14 year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her family. His defence lawyers had argued a technicality that although Mr. Green had been honourably discharged from the army with psychiatric problems before the charges, he was in a war zone at the time. Technically, the defense team argued, it should be dealt with by due military process rather than a civil one. The lawyers plan to plead insanity of their client. Mr. Green from Midland Texas, faces the death penalty if found guilty. The trial is expected to take place in April 2009.
Four other soldiers also face charges over the crime and two have testified that Mr. Green shot the girl's mother, father and younger sister while they took turns in raping the girl.
Steven Dale Green's attorneys challenged a law that allowed him to be indicted on civilian charges for alleged crimes that happened in a war zone while he was serving in the Army. He was discharged before the military could bring its own charges.
But U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell, in a series of ruling released Tuesday, upheld the constitutionality of the law and found that Green received due process as his case moved through the judicial system.
Green has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to face trial in April 2009. The 22-year-old from Midland, Texas, faces a possible death sentence if convicted on 16 charges that include premeditated murder and aggravated sexual assault. His lawyers have said they plan to use an insanity defense at trial.
Green's public defender, Patrick Bouldon, said the civilian justice system shouldn't handle cases involving the unfamiliar and extreme setting of a war zone.
"Certainly cases involving soldiers in the midst of a violent war are ones that belong within the military system," he said.
Sandy Focken, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Louisville, said prosecutors would review the rulings.
Four other soldiers pleaded guilty or were convicted for their role in targeting the 14-year-old girl from a checkpoint near Mahmoudiya, a village 20 miles south of Baghdad, and helping rape and kill her in 2006.
Two of the soldiers testified they took turns raping the girl while Green shot and killed her mother, father and younger sister. They also testified that Green raped the girl and shot her.
Green's lawyers challenged the constitutionality of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, a law written in 2000 and amended in 2004 primarily to allow the prosecution of civilian contractors who commit crimes while working for the U.S. overseas.
The attorneys argued their client could face death, a much harsher punishment than his alleged coconspirators received in military court. One soldier charged as an accessory was sentenced to five years, while sentences for three others ranged from 90 to 110 years.