BLT: The Blog of Legal Times reports:
A federal appeals court in Washington handed the U.S. Department of Justice a loss Monday in its revived prosecution of former private security guards charged with killing Iraqi civilians in 2007.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled a trial judge was wrong to allow the government to bring a new indictment against one of ex-Blackwater guards, Nicholas Slatten. The appeals court said a previous opinion from 2011 that allowed the government to renew its prosecution of other guards didn't apply to Slatten.
The ruling means prosecutors can't proceed with the current slate of manslaughter charges against Slatten. The five-year statute of limitations expired in 2012, according to court documents.
The government initially charged five ex-Blackwater guards in a shooting in Nisour Square in Baghdad that left 14 Iraqi civilians dead. U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed the entire prosecution in 2009, citing prosecutors' improper use of protected statements made by the guards. The D.C. Circuit reversed Urbina in 2011 and gave the government another chance to bring the case.
The government brought a new round of charges last year against four of the five guards originally indicted, including Slatten. Slatten's lawyers argued the D.C. Circuit's 2011 ruling didn’t apply to him, and petitioned the appeals court after U.S. District Senior Judge Royce Lamberth, the judge currently assigned to the case, sided with the government.
Prosecutors had acknowledged the original indictment against Slatten was tainted and moved to dismiss it. Urbina dismissed the entire case after finding prosecutors relied on protected statements, however, making the separate motion to dismiss Slatten's indictment moot. The government later argued that the D.C. Circuit's 2011 order reviving the case applied to Slatten because it involved the broader issues addressed in Urbina's opinion, regardless of problems specific to Slatten's indictment.
But the three-judge appellate panel said Monday that the court's 2011 decision "clearly applied only to Slatten's four co-defendants." Chief Judge Merrick Garland and senior judges Stephen Williams and Douglas Ginsburg jointly issued the order. . . .