Late Friday afternoon, just four days before the January 17 oral arguments, Nick Slatten learned that he will be fighting for his freedom in the dark. Though Nick previously won additional time to argue his issues together, separate from the joint argument, Nick's lawyers had also asked the D.C. Circuit to unseal statements by a codefendant that prove Nick's innocence so these statements could be openly discussed in a completely public oral argument. At trial, Nick's jury was not allowed to hear this evidence because the trial judge refused to give Nick the separate trial the constitution requires, and until a court order is issued unsealing it, this evidence cannot be publicly released (which is why multiple parts of Nick's individual brief are redacted).
At this advanced stage of the case, Nick's legal team had hoped that the restrictions on this critical evidence would be removed. However, in a last-minute ruling, the court denied Nick's request. Although this ruling means that the public will not get to know the truth (yet), the judges deciding the appeal will get to see the statements at issue and hear argument about them from Nick's attorneys in a closed-door session following the public portion of oral arguments.
On the heels of the court's ruling, Nick's sister, Jess Slatten, released this statement:
"My family has been fighting for years to expose the evidence proving Nick's innocence, evidence that Nick's own jury never got to hear. That the appellate court refused to unseal this evidence just underscores how unfair—and unconstitutional—it was for Nick to be tried jointly with the other men. While we were hopeful that the world would finally get to see undeniable proof of what we know—that Nick is innocent—we are confident that the judges on the panel deciding the appeal will not overlook this evidence and will send Nick home to us. I believe in our justice system, even though it has failed Nick, Dustin, Evan, and Paul so far. The D.C. Circuit can never give us back what we've lost, but I am confident that it will overturn these unjust convictions. We will never stop fighting until all four of these men come home."
Independent media outlets are also reporting on the D.C. Circuit's decision, including Law360: "DC Cir. Won't Let Blackwater Guard Unseal Info for Appeal."
What the government did to Nick—vindictively prosecuting him for a crime it knows he did not commit while hiding the evidence that proves his innocence from the jury—set the tone for the prosecutorial vindictiveness and overreaching that plagued the Raven 23 case and ultimately ripped four decorated veterans and innocent men from their families. You can read more about the government's egregious conduct in two recent articles detailing the rights violations that are the focus of the Raven 23 appeal: (1) Appeal for the Truth: An In-Depth Look at the Overlooked Issues of the Raven 23 Appeal; and (2) The Illegal Prosecution of Raven 23.
As Jess said, we will never stop fighting until all four of our men come home, and we need your help. In the next few days, and especially on the day of oral argument (January 17), please share our story and hold our families in your prayers. Also, don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for our newsletter so you can stay up to date on our fight for true justice, as well as learn about additional actions you can take to help Free Raven 23.