Trial set for captain accused of killing badly-injured Iraqi
February 26, 2005
The court-martial of a 1st Armored Division captain accused of murdering an Iraqi man last year is set to begin March 28, according to Army officials.
If coverage of the preliminary hearings last fall is any indication, the trial of Capt. Rogelio M. Maynulet should generate great interest among servicemembers and the media. Some view the case as “an act of mercy” to a dead or dying man, while Army prosecutors maintain it was murder.
Maynulet is charged with premeditated murder and dereliction of duty relating to the May 21 death of a man believed to be associated with the insurgency campaign against U.S. troops. At the time of the incident, Maynulet commanded Company A, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, and was viewed by many superiors as a rising star.
“Captain Maynulet maintains his innocence, and I think that the court members will reach the right and just verdict,” Capt. Will Helixon, the lead defense attorney, said in a telephone interview Friday.
The trial will be held in the courtroom on Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Germany.
Maj. Michael Indovina, a division spokesman, said the proceedings are expected to last several days.
“It will definitely go the full week, based on the number of witnesses,” Helixon said.
The list for both sides includes about 45 to 50 names, Helixon said.
Prosecutors are expected to introduce a 10-minute video of the incident and the events preceding it. An unmanned aerial vehicle operating at the time near the Iraqi cities of Kufa and Najaf apparently captured the shooting on tape.
The video was not played in open court during the pretrial hearing. The encounter between Maynulet and the Iraqi man came at the end of a vehicle chase between U.S. soldiers and a car believed to contain militia forces.
In a U.S. Central Command news release following the incident, the Army stated “the driver and a passenger were wounded” when U.S. forces shot at their vehicle. “Shortly thereafter, the wounded driver was shot and killed at close range.”
At the preliminary hearing, defense attorneys presented expert medical testimony and a report by the on-scene medic. The report stated there were at least two bullet wounds to the base of the driver’s skull and that brain matter was on his clothes and in the car. A medical expert said a person in such a state could still move, but it would likely be involuntarily.
As the scene was unfolding, there were gunbattles with insurgents in the immediate vicinity, and evacuation of the injured was not possible, according to defense witnesses.
During Maynulet’s Article 32 hearing in December, fellow officer 1st Lt. Colin Cremin testified that Maynulet told him he then shot the Iraqi in the base of the neck or the back of the head.
“It was something he didn’t want to do, but it was the compassionate response,” Cremin testified. “It was definitely the humane response.”
Whatever the circumstances, prosecutors argue Maynulet unlawfully killed a man who, at the time, was alive, even if his chances for survival were slim.