Former U.S. Army Private First Class Steven Dale Green, convicted on 16 felonies including premeditated murder of a civilian Iraqi family and attempted rape, will undoubtedly die in prison. The sentencing trial for Steven Green began on May 11 and, as Defense Attorney Pat Bouldin told the jury, it will decide "if [Green] will die of natural causes, or if he'll be taken to a room by government officials, laid out on a table in a room full of witnesses and killed."
In pushing for the death penalty, Prosecutor Marisa Ford reiterated the squad's actions of March 12, 2006. She reminded the jury of how "all four soldiers agreed on the plan, brought weapons and tools to prepare for their mission, and worked to cover up the evidence." She told the jury, "Steven Green failed to live up to his duty, he didn't show mercy to Abeer Al-Janabi, he took away the two orphaned brother's hope for a normal life, and by doing so he lost the honor of calling himself a U.S. soldier; Steven Green doesn't deserve mercy."
Pat Bouldin admitted he was "nervous" at the beginning of his opening statement, saying that he had "never had a man's life, nor his liberty," in his hands. Bouldin recalled specific portions of the guilty phase of the trial, and also reiterated, "Steven has never denied his actions on March 12th, 2006." A large part of his opening played on the jury's empathy. "In the prosecution's closing, they talked about respect for life...yet here we are, debating the life of this man," Bouldin said. "The 1st Platoon, and Bravo Company as a whole, has suffered enough deaths... do we have to kill one more?"
On the same day, the prosecution began and completed its case. One "Ameena" Al-Janabi, elder sister to Qassim Hamza (father of the slain family), was the first to testify. Of the orphaned twins, she told the jury, "their life is currently destroyed, by a crime committed against their family, the kids don't go to school." She spoke of the boys running up to her "countless" times, saying they want to commit suicide. Defendant Green's eyes widened as he listened to this. The uncle of the two orphan twins, who had testified in the criminal case, took the stand on the first day of the sentencing trial. He told of his murdered family's dreams, how Qassim was "the best family man," and how Abeer wanted a family, "but fate didn't let them do that." He wished peace upon the courtroom, and asked justice for his nephews.
Former soldier Eric Lauzier was called to the stand. He nearly vilified the army in testifying about "faulty" parts of the Army's leadership. When asked about Sgt. Jim Fenlason, Lauzier told the court that he was "tactically incompetent." When asked about Colonel Kunk, he became frustrated in saying that, "he wouldn't listen to what NCOs were telling him, he'd berate any officer who tried to defy him or question his actions. That man threw lives away." In this case alone the Defense has gathered enough to put the Army itself on trial.
The sentencing phase continued on Tuesday, May 12th. Dr. Ruben Gur of University of Pennsylvania was called. Gur examined an MRI of Green:
Green has frontal lobe damage. This means Green has difficulty making decisions and does not work well under disorganization or without being told what to do. He is happy to follow a leader, he doesn't want to be pressured. He works well in a structured environment, but in a chaotic environment, he behaves chaotically.
Greg Simolke, Steven Green's uncle, was also called. He described Green's mother as being "alive in the moment type of person, someone who acts on impulses and doesn't give a lot to the consequences." He said that he had always known her personality to make it hard to raise kids. "Doug...was hard on Steve...I felt as if that wore Steve down." At this point, Dr. Simolke broke down crying and had to regain composure. Bouldin asked Simolke about his thoughts were on Green himself, and he replied, "I generally felt sorry for him...he wasn't completely normal...nothing drastic but he had this black cloud hanging over him."
Lieutenant Colonel Karen Marrs was also called to the witness stand and testified that she had told Colonel Kunk that the First Platoon's mental health status was "red," or "combat incapable." The question of how the war weighed on these soldiers has been a theme of the sentencing trial.
The final witness on Thursday was Jan Vogelsang, a clinical social worker and mental health expert. She conducted a "bio-psychological assessment" of Green. She told the jury "that as a young child Steven had an enormous amount of potential; he was a classic case of simply being born at the wrong time, into the wrong family." She spoke of Roxanne's marriage to John Green. "They were an immature couple for their age...they lacked any real sense of growing up...they enjoyed the nightlife. They were more like kids than their own kids." Vogelsang told a tale of Roxanne damaging Green by telling him, "if he had been born in colonial times, she would legally have been allowed to take him out to the forest and kill him."
Vogelsang spoke of the lack of parenting, saying, "one of the most important things a parent can teach a child is that they will face adversity in their life. Green was not taught to face adversity, at all." She ended by summarizing, "The accumulation of tumultuous events in his life made him into Steven Green."
The trial continued on Monday with Green's uncle and father present in the courtroom. Patti Ruth, Green's other aunt, tearfully testified that Green's mother couldn't be present at his trial today because she is moving and "had plans for a going away party."
Evan Bright is a senior at Paducah Tilghman Highschool in Paducah, KY. He writes and photographs for his high school newspaper, The Tilghman Bell. Since the USA V. Green began on April 27th, 2009, he has been present every day, blogging/tweeting/reporting about the trial's proceedings. He will continue to chronicle the proceedings until the conclusion of the trial.