US ex-soldier convicted of Iraq rape and killings

A federal jury convicted a former soldier of raping and fatally shooting a 14-year-old girl after killing her parents and younger sister while he was serving in Iraq.

Pfc. Steven Dale Green faces a possible death sentence when the penalty phase of his trial opens Monday in the unusual case of a crime in a war zone being prosecuted in civilian court.

Green, 24, of Midland, Texas, was being tried in federal court because he had been discharged from the Army for a personality disorder before he was charged with the Iraq crimes. Green stared straight ahead as the verdict was read yesterday in US District Court in western Kentucky.

Defence attorney Darren Wolff, speaking afterward, said the defence never denied Green's involvement.

"Is this verdict a surprise to us? No. The goal has always been to save our client's life," Wolff said. "And, now we're going to go to the most important phase, which is the sentencing phase and we're going to accomplish that goal."

The lead prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney Marisa Ford, declined comment.

The trial began April 27, and jurors deliberated for more than 10 hours beginning Wednesday before finding Green guilty. Jurors didn't look at Green as they entered the courtroom before the verdict was read.

Green's defense team had asked them to consider the "context" of war, saying soldiers in Green's unit of the 101st Airborne Division lacked leadership. Defense attorneys also said the Army missed signs that Green was struggling after the loss of friends in combat and that it offered little help to him and other soldiers in his unit.

The prosecution rested six days into the trial after presenting witnesses who said Green confessed to the crimes and others who put him at the home of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, heard him shoot her family and saw him rape and shoot the girl.

During opening arguments, Assistant US Attorney Brian Skaret said Green talked frequently of wanting to kill Iraqis, but when pressed, would tell people he wasn't serious. In the weeks before the attack on the family, several soldiers from Green's unit were killed in combat.

In closing arguments, Ford said the March 12, 2006, crime was planned and premeditated. "This was a crime that was committed in cold blood," she said.

Prosecutors told jurors that the plot against the family was hatched among Green and fellow soldiers who were playing cards and drinking whiskey at a checkpoint. Talk turned to having sex with Iraqi women, when one soldier mentioned the al-Janabi family, who lived nearby, Skaret said.

Three other soldiers are serving time in military prison for their roles in the attack, and testified against Green at his trial.

Green's father, John Green, declined to comment on the verdict. But he told The Associated Press that he may testify during the penalty phase of the trial.