- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2008

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii (AP) A soldier who had been charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed Iraqi was convicted by a military jury Wednesday of aggravated assault.

Spc. Christopher Shore, based in Hawaii, had insisted that his platoon leader ordered him to kill the Iraqi man on June 23 near Kirkuk and that he intentionally fired to miss.

Aggravated assault carries a maximum of eight years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and a drop to the Army’s lowest pay grade, but lawyers said Shore could receive a lighter sentence.

The sentencing was set for later Wednesday. Another witness was being flown in from Iraq to testify.

Shore had no visible reaction inside, and he declined to comment after the verdict and hugged friends and relatives outside the hearing room. His attorney said jurors concluded that Shore did not shoot the man.

“The first feeling that came over me was that our prayers were answered,” said Derrick Sparks, 29, Shore’s half-brother. “I knew my brother was innocent. I’m glad everyone’s finally going to see the answer is not guilty.”

Capt. James Leary, the prosecutor in the soldier’s court-martial, had argued that duress was not a defense for murder, pointing to witness testimony that the victim was talking and moving before Shore fired his weapon.

“Everyone else wants to be back inside. They didn’t want to be part of it,” Capt. James Leary said. Although Shore may not have wanted to hurt the victim, Leary said, the decision to fire two shots at him was itself illegal.

Shore’s lawyer, Mike Waddington, did not call the defendant to the stand.

He argued that the prosecutor had provided no physical or forensic evidence linking Shore to the killing. No guns, bullets or other items were entered into evidence, and the Iraqi has not been identified by U.S. authorities.

Waddington called the investigation “sloppy,” saying investigators initially went to the wrong house and excavated the wrong yard. “Why would a young soldier stand there?” he asked. “Perhaps terror. He wouldn’t have shot but for fear.”

Shore, of Winder, Ga., said he fired at the man after platoon leader Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales of San Antonio ordered him to finish off the Iraqi, suspected of firing at a U.S. helicopter.

Corrales, charged with premeditated murder, is to go on trial April 22.

Col. Donna Wright, presiding over Shore’s trial, told jurors they could convict Shore of the murder charge, which is the equivalent of manslaughter, or of aggravated assault, or they could find him innocent.

Before his closing arguments, Waddington read testimony submitted by Essa Ahmed, a translator with Shore’s unit during the raid. He used Ahmed’s testimony to argue that Shore acted under pressure and had reason to fear Corrales would attack him if he did not follow orders.

Ahmed said that the victim was alive and talking after Shore fired two rounds and that the man was also afraid Corrales would shoot him.

“Help me, by Christ’s sake,” Ahmed quoted the victim as saying. He said the man also declared before dying, “I am a Christian, too.”

After the verdict, Waddington said Ahmed’s testimony was vital because his statement “showed the guy was alive after Shore discharged his weapon twice.”

The hearing officer set the sentencing late to allow Ahmed to arrive from Iraq.

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