Stryker soldier Jeremy Morlock faces court-martial in Afghan killings
Army Spc. Jeremy Morlock will face a general court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for allegedly murdering three Afghan men and other crimes. If convicted, Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, could face life imprisonment without parole. The Army has decided not to seek the death penalty.
Seattle Times staff reporter
In one of the first major decisions in a high-profile war-crimes case, an Army commander has ordered Spc. Jeremy Morlock to face a general court-martial for allegedly murdering three Afghan men and other crimes.
The court-martial was announced Friday. If convicted, Morlock, a 22-year-old from Wasilla, Alaska, could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
The Army has decided not to seek the death penalty, according to Morlock's attorney, Michael Waddington.
Morlock is one of five soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (recently renamed 2nd Brigade 2nd Infantry Division) facing murder charges for their alleged involvement in one or more of the deaths of three Afghan civilians.
An additional seven soldiers are accused of other crimes ranging from assault of a fellow soldier to smoking hashish and possession of body parts.
Morlock had a pretrial hearing in September. In the weeks ahead, the other soldiers are expected to have pretrial hearings, then the Army commander will decide whether to move ahead with courts-martial.
But Army prosecutors and defense attorneys already have been meeting, and it is possible some soldiers could reach plea agreements rather than face trial.
Collectively, the charges against the dozen soldiers form one of the most serious war-crimes cases from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"They would be in the first rank of military-justice cases to come out of this era," said Eugene Fidell, an attorney who serves as president of National Institute of Military Justice.
Morlock is alleged to be a key participant in a "kill team," formed by rogue soldiers who in January, February and May of this year allegedly killed three unarmed Afghan men, then dropped grenades or an AK-47 by the corpses to make the killings appear justified under the NATO rules of engagement.
Other charges result from Morlock's alleged assault of another soldier, smoking hashish and possessing photos of corpses.
Morlock is a key informant in the broader Army prosecution as it attempts to forge ahead with cases against other soldiers.
In several lengthy interviews with Army criminal investigators in May, Morlock detailed the alleged murder plots, which he claims were organized by Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, of Billings, Mont.
Waddington, Morlock's civilian defense counsel, has argued that his client was taking multiple medications because of brain injuries and other ailments, and that his statements to investigators should be discounted.
He also has asserted that Morlock's firearms and grenades were not the direct cause of any of the deaths.
"We will fight the charges at trial in front of a military jury, where the evidence will show that Spc. Morlock is not guilty of murder," Waddington told The Seattle Times.
The court-martial is likely to take place sometime next year.
A jury could be composed of up to a dozen soldiers and would render both a verdict and sentence.
Morlock's defense team will request that the jury include enlisted soldiers, as well as officers, according to Waddington.
Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or email@example.com
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