Unlike the other men of Raven 23, Nick Slatten’s defense is not self-defense. Nick’s defense is he is not the actual killer of the driver of the white Kia.
Nick’s case is different because, backed into a corner of its own incompetence, the government lost the chance to try Nick for the lesser manslaughter charges brought against his teammates. This happened because many years earlier, a prior trial team dropped Nick from the case after acknowledging that the evidence against Nick for those lesser charges was “weak.” Then, the applicable statute of limitations ran while Nick was out of the case, before a new trial team formed under Obama’s administration sought to put Nick back in the manslaughter case. Rather than accept defeat, with no change in the evidence, the government vindictively charged Nick with first-degree premeditated murder, the only charge that does not carry a statute of limitations. Regarding the government’s behavior, the esteemed non-profit, non-partisan National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has stated, “A more textbook case of vindictive prosecution can scarcely be imagined.”
At trial, the insanity continued. The government presented no evidence that Nick killed the driver (because he didn’t). Then, crazily enough, the government’s own star witness even testified that he (i.e., the star witness) believed he fired the first shots through the Kia’s window after he saw another person on the team (NOT Nick) shooting at the Kia. Physical evidence (bullet fragments) pulled from the Kia’s steering wheel (that did not match Nick’s weapon) backed up the star witness’s testimony that someone besides Nick killed the driver. Yet, somehow, the trial judge refused to grant Nick the judgment of acquittal required by law, and the civilian jury—apparently swallowing the “unprovoked massacre” theory of the case the government itself has since stepped back from by acknowledging during the appellate process that the ENEMY fired first—convicted Nick. He was then sentenced to life in federal prison.
But, the rights violations in Nick’s case get even more appalling than this. During the appeal, it became clear that, since day one, the government has had statements (including statements under oath) from one of Nick’s codfendants that conclusively prove Nick did not kill the driver of the Kia. These statements were hidden from Nick’s jury because they could not be introduced in his codefendant’s trial, and, in violation of Nick’s right to due process, the trial judge wrongly refused to sever Nick’s case for a separate trial so Nick’s jury could hear the proof of his innocence. In a shocking ruling, even at this late stage of the case, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to unseal the statements that exonerate Nick and opted instead to conduct its business and review this evidence behind closed doors, in a sealed courtroom.
The result? A decorated combat veteran who went to war twice for this country fights for his freedom in the dark.