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“Kill team” defendant takes a step back to try to clear his name

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on May 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm with No Comments »
May 16, 2011 3:32 pm

The youngest of five Stryker soldiers accused of murdering civilians in Afghanistan last year won a request to re-open a pretrial hearing, giving his attorney an opportunity to present evidence that wasn’t available previously.

Pfc. Andrew Holmes, 20, of Boise is in custody at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He faces life in prison if he’s convicted of murdering an Afghan teenager during a patrol with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in January 2010.

Holmes first appeared before an Army investigating officer for a so-called Article 32 hearing in November. At the time, key witnesses refused to testify because they had not reached immunity deals with the Army. Holmes’ attorney also was barred from presenting photos of the victim Holmes allegedly shot because the images were ordered concealed by the Army.

Now, several of Holmes’ platoon mates are available to testify because they have immunity deals that compel them to take the witness stand. Also, images of the victim have been published by Rolling Stone and Der Spiegel magazines.

Holmes’ attorney, Dan Conway, now can call on a forensic pathologist to analyze the wounds in the victim and offer an opinion on whether the soldier killed the teenager.

Conway said Army Judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks scheduled the hearing for May 25. Army Maj. Michael Liles is expected to preside over the hearing, as he did in November. Liles wrote a report recommending that Holmes stand trial for the charges against him, but Conway said the result could be different this time.

“We certainly think the evidence he’ll see will be dramatically different than what he saw in November,” Conway said.

Hawks has yet to rule on a motion Conway submitted seeking Holmes’ release from pretrial confinement.

Prosecutors argue that Holmes knew he was participating in a staged killing last year during a patrol with his platoon from Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan. He allegedly shot at the teenager after Spc. Jeremy Morlock tossed a grenade toward the Afghan to execute a scenario they had plotted. Morlock has pled guilty to participating in three murders and agreed to testify against his codefendants.

Holmes counters that he did not know Morlock set up the killing. Conway argues that Holmes missed the victim when he fired his squad automatic weapon, partly because he was ducking to avoid the impact from Morlock’s grenade.

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