Hearings Begin for Soldiers Accused of Murdering Afghan Civilians

Austin Jenkins, NNN – Washington

A hearing for the first of five soldiers accused of deliberately killing Afghan civilians this year has begun with more than a dozen witnesses asserting their right to remain silent – including the lieutenant who headed their platoon.

Cpl. Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska, faces charges including premeditated murder in the deaths of three civilians. Army prosecutors are relying heavily on statements Morlock made in which he described the plot as an effort to murder the civilians for sport.

The hearing will determine whether Morlock’s case proceeds to a court martial.

The prosecution of the five soldiers for allegedly murdering Afghan civilians appears to hinge on videotaped testimony, rather than hard evidence. Army investigators acknowledged Monday they never recovered the bodies of the three Afghan men the soldiers are accused of murdering earlier this year. This fact came out during the hearing in the case to determine if Morlock should face court-martial for murder. His attorney Michael Waddington hopes to show the investigation into the killings was shoddy.

In fact, investigators never visited two of the murder scenes in Afghanistan because it was too dangerous. Morlock described the killings in a videotaped statement to Army investigators. But his attorneys say he was doped up on a medley of prescription drugs at the time he described his role in the killings. Army prosecutors say they have multiple corroborating stories from soldiers about what happened and photographic evidence of the crimes. Army Special Agent Anderson Wagner testified today that Morlock’s videotaped statement describing how he and his colleagues randomly killed the three Afghan civilians appeared to be a reliable account.

Agent Wagner testified that Morlock was articulate during the interviews.

The hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will determine whether the case proceeds to a court martial. Morlock and the others could face the death penalty if convicted.

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