The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider throwing out manslaughter and weapons charges against four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards stemming from 2007 shootings in Baghdad that killed 14 Iraqi civilians.
The former guards, who were working as U.S. government contractors in Iraq, said in their appeal to the high court the cases against them were based on information from post-shooting interviews with State Department officials. Because they were threatened with firing if they refused to give statements, the use of that information by prosecutors violates their constitutional rights against self-incrimination, the men said.
A federal judge in Washington dismissed the charges, agreeing that prosecutors violated the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment by using the guards’ statements to help guide their investigation, identify individuals to prosecute and gather evidence.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year reinstated the cases and sent them back to the trial court. The court ordered the judge to conduct a more thorough review to separate information the prosecutors obtained independently from material based on self-incriminating interviews.
The Supreme Court today left the appeals court order intact. The guards had asked the justices to restrict the government’s ability to rely on compelled, self-incriminating testimony as a guide to further investigation and to prevent prosecutors from directly using the information as evidence. Justice Elena Kagan didn’t take part in today’s action.
The security firm formerly known as Blackwater has changed its name to Academi LLC and is based in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia.
The guards, who were hired to protect State Department personnel, are accused of shooting at unarmed civilians near Nisur Square in Baghdad after a car bomb exploded in September 2007.
The men say members of their unit shot in self-defense after coming under fire from insurgents. Prosecutors allege that they opened fire “recklessly and unjustifiably,” according to the government’s Supreme Court filing.
The case is Slough v. U.S., 11-591.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Drummond in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org