Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii — A soldier who had been charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed Iraqi was convicted by a military jury Wednesday of aggravated assault.
Spc. Christopher Shore, based in Hawaii, had insisted that his platoon leader ordered him to kill the Iraqi man on June 23 near Kirkuk and that he intentionally fired to miss.
Aggravated assault carries a maximum of eight years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and a drop to the Army's lowest pay grade, but Shore could receive a lighter sentence.
Shore had no visible reaction when the verdict was read and declined to comment afterward as he hugged friends and relatives outside the hearing room.
At his sentencing later Wednesday, he wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke about losing members of his platoon.
"I know it's real easy if you've never been in this situation to Monday quarterback and say what the law says," he told the court. "You don't know until you're there."
Earlier, Capt. James Leary, the prosecutor in Shore's court-martial, had argued that duress was not a defense for murder, pointing to witness testimony that the victim was talking and moving before Shore fired his weapon.
"Everyone else wants to be back inside. They didn't want to be part of it," Leary said. Although Shore may not have wanted to hurt the victim, Leary said, the decision to fire two shots at him was itself illegal.
Shore's attorney, Mike Waddington, did not call the defendant to the stand.
He argued that the prosecutor had provided no physical or forensic evidence linking Shore to the killing. No guns, bullets or other items were entered into evidence, and the Iraqi has not been identified by U.S. authorities.
Waddington called the investigation "sloppy," saying investigators initially went to the wrong house and excavated the wrong yard. "Why would a young soldier stand there?" he asked. "Perhaps terror. He wouldn't have shot but for fear."
Shore had blamed the killing on his platoon leader, Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales of San Antonio, who is to go on trial on a premeditated murder charge on April 22.
Shore said he shot at but intentionally missed the victim when ordered by Corrales to finish him off outside a house near Kirkuk.
Col. Donna Wright, who presided over the trial, told jurors they could convict Shore of the murder charge, which is the equivalent of manslaughter; of aggravated assault; or they could find him innocent.
Before his closing arguments, Waddington read testimony submitted by Essa Ahmed, a translator with Shore's unit during the raid. He used Ahmed's testimony to argue that Shore acted under pressure and had reason to fear Corrales would attack him if he did not follow orders.
Ahmed said that the victim was alive and talking after Shore fired two rounds. Ahmed said he was also afraid Corrales would shoot him.
"Help me, by Christ's sake," Ahmed quoted the victim as saying. He said the man also declared before dying, "I am a Christian, too."