War crimes murder trial of Navy SEAL due
to start in San Diego
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[June 17, 2019]
By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Jury selection was
set to begin on Monday in the trial of a U.S. Navy SEAL platoon leader
court-martialed on charges of murdering a wounded Iraqi prisoner and
shooting unarmed civilians, a war crimes case that has drawn the
attention of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, a decorated career combat
veteran, has denied all the charges and says he is wrongly accused. He
could face life in prison if convicted in the trial arising from his
2017 deployment to Mosul, Iraq.
The proceedings in a military courthouse at U.S. Naval Base San Diego
are due to last three weeks, starting with the selection of between five
and 15 active-duty Navy officers and enlisted personnel to hear the case
and render a verdict. Empanelling the jury is expected to take one or
The opening of the trial was postponed several times by a lengthy round
of proceedings to deal with defense allegations of prosecutorial
Gallagher's lawyers sought dismissal of the charges after learning that
Navy prosecutors had electronically tracked email communications of
defense lawyers without a warrant, ostensibly to pinpoint the source of
material leaked from sealed case files.
The presiding judge, a Navy captain, ultimately removed the lead
prosecutor from the case and freed Gallagher from pre-trial confinement.
The judge also granted defense lawyers a potentially valuable edge in
jury selection - the right to reject, with no reason given, two more
potential jurors than they otherwise could exclude through the use of a
Gallagher, 39, is charged with murdering a wounded, helpless Islamic
State fighter in his custody by stabbing him in the neck, and with
attempted murder in the wounding of two civilians - a school girl and an
elderly man - shot from a sniper's perch.
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U.S. Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, charged
with war crimes in Iraq, is shown in this undated photo provided May
24, 2019. Courtesy Andrea Gallagher/Handout via REUTERS A
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including obstructing
justice in the case. He maintains that fellow SEAL team members who
are testifying against him, several under grants of immunity, are
disgruntled subordinates who fabricated allegations to force him
Before he was released from custody late last month, Gallagher had
been ordered restricted to base at the nearby Naval Medical Center
He was transferred there in March from a military brig at the Marine
Corps Air Station Miramar in Southern California at the direction of
Trump, who ordered that Gallagher be held in less-restrictive
pretrial confinement "in honor of his past service to our country."
Trump said last month that he is considering pardons for a number of
military service members accused of war crimes, and Gallagher's case
was believed to be one of those under review.
The prospect of presidential clemency seemed heightened by last
month's appointment to Gallagher's defense team of Marc Mukasey, one
of Trump's personal lawyers. Gallagher's lead civilian attorney,
Timothy Parlatore, has said his client has not sought a pardon.
(Reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego; Writing and additional
reporting by Steve Gorman, Editing by Franklin Paul)
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