An ex-soldier charged with raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and slaying her family set the girl's body ablaze after shooting her several times, prosecutors said Monday during opening statements at his federal trial.
Steven Dale Green, 23, of Midland, Texas, faces more than a dozen charges, including sexual assault and four counts of murder, stemming from the March 2006 attack in Iraq's so-called "Triangle of Death." After he shot the girl in the face several times, Green then used kerosene to set fire to her body, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Skaret.
"They left behind the carnage of all carnage," Skaret said of Green and other soldiers accused in the attack on March 12, 2006.
The defense, in its opening statement, asked jurors to consider the extraordinary circumstances that had confronted the soldiers while serving in Iraq. Green, who has pleaded not guilty, is being tried in a civilian court because he was discharged from the Army before being charged.
Later Monday, jurors heard two relatives testify about the carnage inside the victims' home. They also were shown photographs of the teen's burned body.
Skaret said Green talked frequently of wanting to kill Iraqis, but when pressed, would tell people he wasn't serious.
Skaret told jurors that a group of soldiers, including Green, was playing cards and drinking whiskey at a checkpoint near Mahmoudiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.
Talk turned to having sex with Iraqi women, when one soldier mentioned the al-Janabi family, who lived nearby, Skaret said. Soldiers then went to the home where, according to prosecutors, Green pulled the father, mother, and daughters ages 6 and 14 into another room, then pushed the 14-year-old out.
Skaret said Green used a shotgun to kill the three in the room and told the soldiers that the family was dead.
He then raped the girl and shot her, according to Skaret.
As the girl lay helpless, "Steven Green went over to the wall and picked up a gun and he shot her in the face again and again," Skaret said.
Later, Green talked about the killings to superior officers, other soldiers and even civilian friends, Skaret said.
In Green's defense, attorney Patrick Bouldin painted a picture of young soldiers in harsh wartime conditions, lacking leadership and receiving little help from the Army to deal with the loss of friends.
He said Green lost five colleagues in combat prior to the attack. A federal public defender, Bouldin showed jurors a videotape of Green speaking at a memorial service for two slain sergeants.
He said soldiers had lost so many friends and leaders they could no longer perform their duties.
"Context," Bouldin said. "You've got to understand the context."
Green's trial is being held in Paducah because of the western Kentucky city's proximity to Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee border where Green was based as a private with the 101st Airborne Division.
Other soldiers were prosecuted in military court, including two who pleaded guilty and acknowledged taking part in the rape. Prosecutors said a third who was convicted had gone to the family's home knowing what was planned. A fourth who stayed at the checkpoint pleaded guilty to being an accessory, they said.
Mental health questioned
Green's discharge papers showed he received an honorable discharge in May 2006 after being diagnosed with a personality disorder. Bouldin didn't address why Green was discharged.
During his nearly 90-minute opening statement, Bouldin repeatedly talked about how the Army had failed Green's platoon by not providing adequate leadership and mental health assistance for soldiers who lost numerous friends in war.
Bouldin said Green was prescribed a mood-stabilizing drug, but the Army never followed up on his mental state before the attack.
"He told the psychologist, 'I'm so upset. I'm having trouble here. I want to kill all these guys (Iraqis) because I can't tell them apart,'" Bouldin said.
Green had been staffing a checkpoint in the area for 21 days, Bouldin added.
On Monday afternoon, two relatives of the Iraqi family testified about finding blood and human remains at the family home afterward.
Abu Farras, a cousin to al-Janabi family members, told jurors through an interpreter he found the body of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi ablaze in the living room. He said her mother, father and sister were shot to death in a bedroom.
Skaret asked if he initially suspected American soldiers.
"Never. Even terrorists would not do that," Farras said of the killings.
The girl's younger brother, Mohammed al-Janabi, now 15, said he saw smoke coming from the home upon returning from school and summoned Farras.