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US soldier facing court-martial on murder charges in Iraqi detainee deaths

[JURIST] US Army Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr. will face a court-martial for his alleged role in the killings of four Iraqis in April 2007 [NY Times report], after waiving his right to an Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] Wednesday. In September, Leahy, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo, and Sgt. John Hatley were charged [JURIST report] with premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, and obstruction of justice on suspicion that the three former members of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry [unit website] blindfolded and shot four Iraqis, then discarded the bodies in a canal near Baghdad. Leahy faces life in prison without parole at his as-yet unscheduled court martial. Hatley has also waived his Article 32 hearing, and Mayo's hearing date has not yet been announced. Leahy and Hatley also face murder and conspiracy charges from a separate incident in January 2007. AP has more.

Four other soldiers from that unit have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the killings, and two have agreed in plea deals to testify against Leahy, Mayo, and Hatley. In September, Spc. Belmor Ramos pleaded guilty to conspiracy [JURIST report] and was sentenced to seven months in prison after testifying that he willingly took part in the killings as retribution for earlier deaths of US soldiers. Spc. Steven Ribordy pleaded guilty to accessory to murder charges [JURIST report] and was sentenced to eight months in prison, testifying at his court-martial that he stood at his post and watched as other members of his battalion carried out the killings. Both men were dishonorably discharged. In August, Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham and Sgt. Charles Quigley submitted to Article 32 hearings [AP report] to determine sufficiency of evidence for courts-martial on conspiracy charges. No official determination from those proceedings has been announced.

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