Yesterday’s pre-trial hearing for one of five Stryker brigade soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians showed that former platoon mates could wind up shooting holes in one another’s defense strategies as they proceed through the Army judicial system.
Spc. Jeremy Morlock’s attorney laid much of the blame for three suspicious deaths in southern Afghanistan at the feet of Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the alleged mastermind of schemes to kill civilians in combat-like situations during the 5th Brigage, 2nd Infantry Division’s recent deployment.
That was no surprise, and other members of their platoon have said as much.
But Morlock’s attorney also sought to distance his client from the killings by pointing to other soldiers in the platoon who could have fired the bullets that actually caused the deaths of the Afghans. The Army can’t say for sure because criminal investigators were not able to inspect the victims’ bodies to determine exactly how they died.
The first killing took place in January. Morlock told investigators that he tossed a grenade that Gibbs had given him over a waist-high wall. Morlock said that Pfc. Andrew Holmes then opened fire with a machine gun. The Army has charged both soldiers with the murder of that man.
Michael Waddington, Morlock’s attorney, suggested the victim likely died from bullets Holmes fired with a squad automatic weapon. Waddington in court Monday charged that the victim stood outside of the effective range of Morlock’s grenade.
“The grenade did not kill him. The guy was mowed down by the S.A.W.,” Waddington said.
That argument runs counter to what Holmes’ attorney has been saying. Daniel Conway says Holmes fired the machine gun without aiming and ducked behind a wall to avoid the blast from Morlock’s grenade.
In either case, the Army doesn’t have physical evidence to demonstrate how the victim died.
Holmes was among the soldiers who were called on to testify in front of Army investigating officer Col. Thomas Molloy. Holmes, like 13 other soldiers, exercised his 5th Amendment right not to give testimony that could be used against him.