Nick Slatten’s jury has been selected, and opening statements in his third trial for an alleged war-zone crime are scheduled to be held in federal district court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, November 5, 2018.
As a criminal defendant, Nick has no legal burden to prove anything. Rather, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Nick is guilty of the charge against him—the premeditated murder of the driver of a white Kia sedan. Practically, though, we’ve learned through the course of two prior trials that Nick must do MUCH more than exercise his constitutional right to have the government prove its case against him by the most exacting legal standard in American jurisprudence. This is because of legal rulings that unconstitutionally stack the deck against Nick before he ever sits down at the defendant’s table. Over strenuous objections, the trial court has ruled that the jury may hear evidence of other alleged crimes during the same incident that have nothing to do with Nick’s charge, evidence that is designed to prime the jury to punish. One need only look at most of the media coverage of Nisur Square to understand how and why. To overcome this prejudice, even though he is not legally required to prove anything, as a practical matter, Nick will not only need to prove who shot and killed the Kia’s driver, Nick will also need to prove whom he shot and why it was not a crime.
Proving who shot and killed the Kia’s driver should be simple enough. Immediately after the 2007 incident, Paul Slough confessed to killing the driver in self-defense numerous times, including once under oath. Eyewitnesses to the first shots fired by Raven 23 confirm that Paul fired those shots, and physical ballistics evidence points to Paul. Although Nick’s jury will not be permitted to hear it, the government told the Kia driver’s father that Paul killed his son and previously charged Paul (and others) with the driver’s death. It was not until a month prior to the 2014 trial—after the government reneged on its prior decision to drop Nick from the case and after an appellate court had ruled that the statute of limitations precluded adding Nick back in—that the government changed its entire theory of the case (with no new evidence) and vindictively charged Nick with the only crime that does not carry a statute of limitations: first-degree murder. Even though Nick’s jury won’t be able to hear the truth about what the government told the Kia driver’s father, or about the government’s vindictive charging decision, the evidence it will hear as to the actual killer’s identity is overwhelming and clearly enough to create reasonable doubt. If the jury follows its instructions, Nick’s acquittal is the only just outcome.
However, juries do not view justice through the same lens as lawyers. The jurors are going to want to know whom Nick shot and why so they can distinguish Nick’s actions from the actions of others they are not only going to hear have been found criminal but will hear emotional testimony regarding. Because the truth is on Nick’s side, the evidence is, too. The government accuses Nick of firing twice, and the government’s own witness confirms that Nick’s shots were directed at an armed insurgent who was firing at Raven 23 from a specified location in Nisur Square. The evidence also establishes that Department of State investigators went to the exact location Nick specified and recovered enemy shell casings. In other words, the evidence shows that Nick shot an armed insurgent who was shooting at the convoy, which is not a crime, let alone the crime with which Nick is charged.
For what we believe to be the first time, the media has expanded its coverage of the case beyond the evidence proving that someone besides Nick killed the Kia’s driver. Earlier today, USA Today published an article referencing the evidence of whom Nick shot and why his actions were not criminal. The trial court ignored this evidence in denying Nick’s motion for a judgment of acquittal. Will the evidence that Nick’s shots were justified convince his third jury to send him home, or will the government’s emotional appeals in a highly political case again result in Nick being held accountable for shots—both to the Kia’s driver and others—that simply were not his and therefore should not be his to defend?
Read the USA Today article HERE.