A new team of lawyers today took over the controversial manslaughter prosecution against a group of Blackwater security guards charged in the killing of Iraqi civilians.
The new prosecution team, which now includes assistant U.S. attorneys Anthony Asuncion, John Han and T. Patrick Martin, comes as U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina prepares to receive an update on the status of the case.
Delivering a blow to the Justice Department, Urbina in December 2009 dismissed charges against the guards, citing prosecution missteps. The guards were indicted in December 2008 in Washington federal district court.
Urbina dismissed the case after several weeks of a “Kastigar” hearing. At issue in the proceeding, which was held behind closed doors, was the extent to which the government built the manslaughter case on statements the guards made in the aftermath of the shooting in Baghdad in 2007. The defense lawyers for the guards argued the statements were protected.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in April reversed Urbina, sending the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. The full appeals court refused to rehear the case, despite pleas from the defense lawyers that the panel ruling was wrongly decided.
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. said in a statement this afternoon that the new legal team was installed “out of an abundance of caution to place this prosecution on the strongest possible footing with respect to any future Kastigar litigation.”