Four former security guards for Blackwater [JURIST news archive], now known as Xe Services [corporate website], on Monday filed a petition [text, PDF] challenging an appeals court ruling that reinstated a manslaughter case against them. The suit revolves around a 2007 shooting incident [JURIST report] in the Nisour Square area of Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. A subsequent FBI [official website] investigation revealed that 14 of the deaths were unjustified acts of excessive force [NYT report]. The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] initially dismissed the charges [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] because it found the decision to prosecute the men was "tainted" by the use of immunized statements. In April, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] reinstated [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] the case against the guards. The attorneys argued in their petition that the appeals court failed to properly apply the legal standards in Kastigar v. United States [opinion]:
Kastigar imposes a "total prohibition" on "any use" of defendants' compelled statements "in any respect" to "inflict criminal penalties" on them. It certainly advances the "infliction of criminal penalties" when a prosecutor uses a defendant's compelled statement to decide to indict the defendant, and to obtain authorization from DOJ to seek the indictment, as happened here. A defendant who is indicted as a result of his compelled statements is hardly in the same position as if he had stood on his privilege.The lawsuit, the last remaining in relation to the shooting incident, was filed by the families of six victims.
Two ex-Blackwater contractors were convicted of manslaughter [JURIST report] in March for their role in the May 2009 shooting deaths of two Afghan nationals and the wounding of a third. Last April, a federal grand jury indicted five former Blackwater executives [JURIST report] on charges of weapons violations and lying to investigators. In February 2010, the Iraqi government ordered 250 former Blackwater employees to leave Iraq [JURIST report] in reaction to the dismissal of charges against the ex-Blackwater employees allegedly involved in the September 2007 shootings. That month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] also opened an investigation [JURIST report] into whether Blackwater bribed the Iraqi government to be permitted to continue operating in Iraq following the 2007 shootings. Blackwater ceased operations in Baghdad [JURIST report] in May 2009 when its security contracts expired and were not renewed.