A Day at the Courthouse

For the past few days I have been learning about the shooting in Nisour Square in Iraq in 2007. Our boss (Tim Hughes) has had interns study this case in the past. NCSC is currently (or would be if not for the current insurgency) working in Iraq and the case provides a lot of political context for that work and the current political climate in Iraq. It is also a case about government contractors and the liabilities of the work. Obviously our work is nothing like the work Blackwater was doing in 2007, but it makes for a fascinating case study none the less. This year the case studies is particularly well timed because the trial of four men of the Blackwater team that saw sent to Nisour Square are on trial for murder and manslaughter charges stemming from the shooting. The trial is currently taking place in DC District court, and for a number of criminal procedural reasons, it has taken almost seven years for the jury trial to begin.

Today we, (Lindy, Tim, and I) went down to the courthouse to watch part of the trial. It has been the most interesting experience of the summer so far. First, it is nothing like TV, which I guess I knew, but still somewhat surprising. The feeling of the trial was very informal, with the exception of the rising and sitting when the judge and jury entered the courtroom. Second, no one seems to object very much, and third, you really have to establish a foundation. The first two witnesses were both Iraqis, who spoke through an interpreter which made the whole process feel a little stilted. Then shortly before lunch the prosecution called one of the other Blackwater team members who was in the square that day. The rest of the day was spent getting background about the witness it was not until the last hour of the day that he discussed what had happened in the square that day. The team member did not actually finish testimony about the shooting. The prosecutor got tripped up on some of this questions at the end, trying to get around the big criminal procedure issue that has caused the seven year delaying in the case.

Much to Lindy and I’s chagrin we did not get to see the defense cross examine the other Blackwater Team member either. Some news reports I’ve read speculate that the trial will go on for several months. Unfortunately, at least for now I think we will have to return to our regularly scheduled internship programing. Hopefully, the trial will progress enough that we can go back to see some of the defense’s case or maybe closing arguments before the end of the summer.

Also in an unrelated note, I noticed for the first time today that I have been walking or biking past the most famous garage in all of DC.

Watergate Garage