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Ex-Blackwater Guard's Conviction in Iraq Massacre Overturned, Appeals Court Rules

Ex-Blackwater Guard's Conviction in Iraq Massacre Overturned, Appeals Court Rules

The Washington appeals panel also ordered new sentences for Slough, Liberty and Heard, who were found guilty of 13 charges of voluntary manslaughter and 17 charges of attempted manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years each.

Fourteen people died and at least 17 were wounded in the incident in Nisour Square in Baghdad, which strained global relations and drew scrutiny of the role of American contractors in the Iraq war.

"The court concludes that the district court abused its discretion in denying Slatten's motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants and therefore vacates his conviction and remands for a new trial", the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit panel said in the ruling.

They received 30 years because the men were also convicted of using military firearms while committing a felony, a charge that has primarily been aimed at gang members and never before against security contractors given military weapons by the US government. Slatten had been sentenced to life in prison.

A spokesman for the USA attorney's office in Washington said prosecutors were still reviewing the decision and had no immediate comment.

A state appeals court has overturned a murder conviction in San Bernardino County after determining jurors committed misconduct by discussing potential prison time for the defendant.

It is unclear if Slatten will be retried.

After Slatten fired, the others joined in, killing the civilians, which women and children at a traffic circle.

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In overturning the 30-year terms, USA circuit judges Karen LeCraft Henderson and Janice Rogers Brown wrote "we by no means intend to minimize the carnage attributable to Slough, Heard and Liberty's actions".

However, Lamberth at the time acknowledged criticism by attorneys for Slough, Liberty and Heard about applying the mandatory 30-year term prosecutors sought for the firearms charge. "Their poor judgments resulted in the deaths of many innocent people". Guards claimed the convoy was ambushed and they fired in defense of the convoy.

Blackwater said its convoy defended itself, but witnesses testified that the contractors opened fire without provocation.

Jurors in 2014 convicted Echavarria of first-degree murder in a 2011 slaying over a debt related to a construction project.

Dozens of victims and witnesses flew from Iraq to the U.S. for the trial.

The court found that the 30-years sentences were "grossly disproportionate to their culpability for using government-issued weapons in a war zone".

The private military company Blackwater, founded in 1997, was later sold and rebranded as Academi.

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