Attorney: Sgt. Didn't Give Order to Kill Iraqi Detainees, But Did Help Cover Up Shooting

An Army staff sergeant will tell a military court Thursday that he did not order members of his squad to kill three Iraqi detainees as his soldiers have testified, but did help them cover up the crime, his attorney said.

Staff Sgt. Ray Girouard, 24, is accused of telling his soldiers to release the detainees they captured and then shoot them as they fled near Samarra, Iraq.

"So much of the entire case is obviously going to hinge on him and his testimony and whether they believe him," said Girouard's attorney, Anita Gorecki.

Girouard is the last and most senior soldier from the 101st Airborne Division to face trial in the killings during a May 9 raid on a suspected insurgent camp.

Pfc. Juston Graber testified Wednesday that Girouard gave soldiers the option of taking part in the shooting.

"Sgt. Girouard said Clagett and Hunsaker wanted to kill the detainees," Graber said.

Graber pleaded guilty in January to aggravated assault for shooting one of the three detainees who had been wounded and was sentenced to nine months in a military jail.

Pfc. Corey Clagett and Spc. William Hunsaker initially told investigators they shot in self-defense because the detainees attacked them and tried to escape.

Both have pleaded guilty and testified Tuesday that Girouard ordered the killings and helped them cover it up by faking an attack. Clagett and Hunsaker were sentenced to 18 years in military prison.

Gorecki said Girouard had no knowledge of their plans to kill the three men but decided to help after finding the detainees dead.

"He'll admit when he came upon the scene, he surmised what happened and then he made a loyalty decision and he opted to help them out," Gorecki said following Wednesday's proceedings.

The soldiers also said they were given rules of engagement by 3rd Brigade commander Col. Michael Steele to kill all military-age men on the mission. Steele has denied this but invoked his right not to testify.

Defense attorneys for Girouard claim the soldiers are testifying against their squad leader in exchange for lighter sentences.

Girouard faces a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole if convicted.