Blackwater Revival in Supreme Court? Defense Contractors Appeal

By Robyn Hagan Cain on October 27, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Four former Blackwater contractors are challenging a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling reinstating manslaughter charges against them. The contractors, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Donald Ball, filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court last Friday.

The petition was filed under seal and is not yet available.

In case you don’t remember the specifics of the case, we’ll recap what wasn’t redacted from the facts of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in the matter.

A car bomb exploded in 2007 near the Izdihar Compound in Baghdad, where a U.S. diplomat was conferring with Iraqi officials. American security officials ordered a team from Blackwater Worldwide, a private security contractor, to evacuate the diplomat to the Green Zone.

A second Blackwater team, Raven 23, headed out of the Green Zone to block traffic and facilitate the diplomat's safe passage. While doing so, a gunfire battle started. (The dispute over who fired at whom and when is the substantive crux of the criminal case underlying the Blackwater appeal.) When the shooting stopped, 14 Iraqi civilians were dead and 20 wounded.

Four of the contractors were subsequently indicted for manslaughter.

Prosecutors alleged that the guards fired live ammunition into crowds, and that some defendants had a history of abusive behavior towards Iraqis. The defense argued that any shooting took place in response to perceived threats, and that there was no proof that the shots came from their clients, reports Politico.

In 2009, a district judge dismissed the indictment, finding that prosecutors improperly used the contractors' compelled statements against them. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the indictment earlier this year, ruling that the district judge had improperly assumed that the tainted evidence affected all of the indictments, reports the ABA Journal.

In light of the media attention surrounding the Blackwater contractor debacle - the company has since changed its name to Xe Services due to the bad publicity - we expect widespread outrage if the Supreme Court reverses the appellate court in this case. Will The Nine will take up the issue, or will they let the circuit ruling stand?

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