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Gory photos of “kill team” victim back up testimony from key witness

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Nov. 1, 2011 at 8:49 am |
November 1, 2011 1:53 pm
Pvt. Jeremy Morlock is the Army's main witness against alleged "kill team" ringleader Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs.

1:45 PM UPDATE: Army prosecutors bolstered testimony from their key witness this afternoon by presenting a new photograph of a murder victim that supported the government’s case against alleged “kill team” ringleader Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs.

Witness Pvt. Jeremy Morlock this morning faced four hours of difficult questions from Gibbs’ defense team, including a a series of inquiries about photos contradicting Morlock’s accusation that Gibbs shot an Afghan twice in the head as the victim lay crippled by gunfire and a grenade blast.

The earlier images showed what appeared to be wounds only to the man’s body. Prosecutors waited until the end of the defense examination of Morlock before presenting an oversize image of the victim with a gunshot just behind his ear.

Prosecutors now are calling Pvt. Robert Stevens to the witness stand. Stevens has testified in the past that Gibbs confided in him about murdering an Afghan man in February 2010.

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12:50 PM UPDATE: Key Army “kill team” witness Pvt. Jeremy Morlock continues to face tough questions today at a court-martial for alleged murder mastermind Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs.

Gibbs’ defense attorney concluded this morning’s testimony with a series of questions in which he compelled Morlock to admit that he had lied to officers about three killings he says he carried out under Gibbs’ guidance. Morlock has given different versions of those incidents to criminal investigators and on the witness stand at past hearings for related trials.

“You have the ability to lie and be convincing?” defense attorney Phil Stackhouse asked Morlock.

“You can say that, yes,” Morlock answered.

“If you weren’t able to lie, you would’ve been caught well before this,” Stackhouse said.

“I’m sure that plays a role, yes,” Morlock replied.

Stackhouse pointed to photographs of Morlock’s third victim, a man he says he killed with Gibbs and then-Spc. Adam Winfield. Morlock told the jury today that Gibbs walked up to the body and shot the man twice in the head as Morlock planted a grenade near the corpse to make it appear as if the victim attacked first.

Three separate photographs of the body from different angles did not appear to show a bloodied head when the images were enlarged and displayed for the jury to see.

Yesterday, Stackhouse charged that Morlock framed Gibbs and other soldiers to get a lighter sentence for murdering Afghans. Morlock has pleaded guilty to killing three Afghans and is serving a 24-year prison sentence.

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10:30 AM UPDATE: Defense attorney Phil Stackhouse is drawing out inconsistencies in “kill team” star witness Pvt. Jeremy Morlock’s recollection of the murders he claims he carried out with Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs last year.

Stackhouse this morning has highlighted that Gibbs was not present at the first of the three murders he’s accused of committing with Morlock.

Stackhouse has also elicited a contradiction in Morlock’s account of the second murder. Morlock claims Gibbs murdered an Afghan man on Feb. 22, 2010 and used an “off the books” AK-47 to cover up the kill.

Stackhouse has shown that Gibbs was carrying at least some of the equipment Morlock claims the sergeant left at his base that day to make room for the AK-47 in his assault pack that day.  Stackhouse pointed to a photo Morlock took with Gibbs and fellow murder codefendant Spc. Michael Wagnon to demonstrate that Gibbs had the extra equipment.

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Defense attorneys for accused “kill team” ringleader Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs is expected to resume their attack on star witness Pvt. Jeremy Morlock this morning.

Yesterday’s testimony ended with a discussion about whether Gibbs’ attorneys could show a video of Morlock getting high during his deployment with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in southern Afghanistan last year.

Lead defense attorney Phil Stackhouse aims to show that Morlock was an unreliable soldier who can’t be trusted to tell the truth about his and his platoonmates’ misdeeds. He testified yesterday that he smoked hashish regularly and snorted opium at least twice during his deployment.

The specifics of Morlock’s testimony have changed at different hearings over the past year, but the broad arc has generally held up in court. A dozen soldiers from their platoon came home accused of different criminal charges last year, and nine so far have been convicted.

Morlock is the Army’s main witness against Gibbs, 26. Morlock alleges that he murdered three Afghan civilians last year under Gibbs’ direction. Gibbs faces life in prison if he’s convicted on any of the three murders.

At least 27 other witnesses are expected to testify this week at Gibbs’ court-martial.

Former Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens is expected to follow Morlock on the witness stand today. Stevens has pleaded guilty to assaulting Afghans and lying to investigators to cover up his tracks.

Gibbs allegedly bragged to Stevens about a staged killing he carried out in February 2010, and Stevens was aware of “off the books” weapons Gibbs kept at Forward Operating Base Ramrod, according to his testimony at past hearings.

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