The 2018 Slatten Trials
In 2014, a civilian jury wrongly convicted Nick Slatten of first-degree premeditated murder based on the government’s allegation that, without provocation, Nick murdered the driver of a white Kia in a Baghdad war zone while Nick’s team, Raven 23, was responding to a car bomb attack. However, Nick’s conviction was overturned in 2017 because Nick’s jury had been wrongly denied key evidence of his innocence—namely four confessions, including one under oath, by Raven 23 teammate Paul Slough that were given immediately after the shooting and that detail that Paul killed the Kia’s driver after he failed to stop his vehicle’s progress toward Raven 23’s convoy despite repeated, non-lethal warnings to stop. Under enormous political pressure, the DOJ (which had previously won an award for Nick’s wrongful conviction), decided to retry Nick rather than acknowledge that Paul’s statements, which are backed up by both eyewitness testimony and physical evidence, prove that Nick is not guilty.
In June-September 2018, the government held a second trial. The eyewitnesses and physical evidence were in Nick’s favor, as they showed that Paul killed the Kia’s driver in self-defense. However, the trial judge had allowed Nick’s jury to hear irrelevant evidence of other alleged crimes by members of Raven 23 that have nothing to do with Nick and emotional testimony from the victims of those alleged crimes—testimony that was designed to prejudice Nick simply because he was a member of Raven 23. Faced with facts versus emotion, in a desperate attempt to have emotion prevail, in his rebuttal closing argument, the prosecutor made several improper arguments designed to preclude the acquittal that the evidence required. For example, he told the jurors that if the government believed that Paul had killed the Kia’s driver it would have charged Paul and not Nick. Of course, the prosecutor neglected to tell the jury that Paul (and others) had, in fact, previously been charged with the driver’s death and that Nick had only been charged with the driver’s murder because the government went back on a prior decision to drop Nick from the case, and murder was the only charge for which the statute of limitations had not expired when they decided to put Nick back in the case. The prosecutor also improperly told the jury that it could throw out all the evidence except snippets of transcripts (taken out of context) from prior—unconstitutional—proceedings. Ultimately, Nick’s second jury could not reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared.
The government has since announced its intent to retry Nick a third time, and Nick’s trial is scheduled for October-December 2018. In Nick’s third trial, the government is going to resort to another emotional plea designed to disguise the fact that it is asking the jury to find Nick guilty by guessing. However, that is not the applicable legal standard, and if the jury upholds its oath to apply the applicable legal standard, of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the only just verdict will be NOT guilty.