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US Army sniper guilty of unpremeditated murder in Iraqi civilian killing

[JURIST] US Army sniper Sgt. Evan Vela [JURIST news archive] was convicted Sunday of unpremeditated murder for the killing of an unarmed Iraqi civilian near Iskandariyah and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The military jury also found Vela guilty of making a false official statement and of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. He had been charged with premeditated murder, and could have faced a possible life sentence. During his court-martial [JURIST report], Vela's lawyer accused military investigators of incompetence and pointed to the mental and physical fatigue the snipers were under last spring when the shooting took place.

Vela was charged [press release; JURIST report] last year in connection with the killing of three unarmed Iraqis in three separate incidents between April and June 2007 in the vicinity of Iskandariyah [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. Another sniper, US Army Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley, was acquitted of premeditated murder [JURIST report] last year, but convicted of other charges connected to the Iskandariyah incidents and sentenced to time served. US Army Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval was sentenced to five months in prison [JURIST report] for his role in covering up the shootings, but was also acquitted of premeditated murder. AP has more. KPVI.com has additional coverage.

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