Soldier Court Martial
Marco Garcia  /  AP
Army Spc. Christopher Shore, of Winder, Ga., is seen during a break at military justice courthouse on Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, in this Oct. 18, 2007 file photo. A military jury in Hawaii found Army Spc. Christopher Shore not guilty of third-degree murder on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008 but guilty of the lesser charge of aggravated assault in the killing of an Iraqi man last year. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File)
By Associated Press Writer
updated 2/21/2008 10:42:06 AM ET 2008-02-21T15:42:06

Spc. Christopher Shore has insisted his platoon leader ordered him to finish off a wounded Iraqi last summer near Kirkuk but that he intentionally fired his weapon to miss.

A military jury on Wednesday apparently accepted his account of the unarmed Iraqi's death, finding the 26-year-old soldier not guilty of third-degree murder. Jurors instead convicted him of aggravated assault.

Shore, of Winder, Ga., was sentenced to 120 days in prison and a two-grade reduction in rank, said his attorney, Mike Waddington. He will serve his sentence in Hawaii and will be allowed to remain in military service.

Shore could have been sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison, dropped to the Army's lowest pay grade and been given a dishonorable discharge.

"We're very pleased at the result, considering he was facing mandatory life in prison three months ago for first-degree premeditated murder," Waddington said.

Shore had no visible reaction when the jury's verdict was read, and declined to comment afterward as he hugged friends and relatives outside the hearing room.

Later, at the sentencing, 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."

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 had been shot but was talking and moving before Shore fired his weapon.

Although Shore might not have wanted to hurt the victim, Leary said, the decision to fire two shots at him was illegal.

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.

Shore didn't testify during the trial, but has blamed the killing on his platoon leader, Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales.

Corrales is scheduled for trial on a premeditated murder charge on April 22. He also is charged with trying to cover up the crime by planting an AK-47 next to the victim.

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 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."

___

Associated Press writer Leonard Pallats in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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