A federal appeals court in Washington said today that a lower court judge was wrong to dismiss the cases against four private security guards accused in the 2007 shooting deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians in downtown Baghdad.
According to The Associated Press, "a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Friday that [Judge Ricardo] Urbina wrongly interpreted the law" when he ruled that the Justice Department had "mishandled evidence and violated the guards' constitutional rights."
In fact, the appeals court writes (a redacted version of its opinion is online here) that "the district court made a number of systemic errors based on an erroneous legal analysis."
As the Washington Post's Del Quentin Wilber told All Things Considered in 2009, the legal issue was whether the prosecution improperly relied on statements that the guards gave to State Department investigators about the shootings. The statements were given with the understanding that they could not be used against the men.
Today's ruling includes an order to Urbina "that he reconsider whether there was any tainted evidence," the AP says.
The appeals court says the lower court judge erred by not determining whether some of the testimony and evidence was "free of taint" and by not performing an "independent-source analysis" of the evidence.
There's more analysis of the decision at The BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes.
At the time of the killings, the guards were employed by Blackwater Worldwide — a company now called Xe — and were working on a contract with the State Department to provide security for diplomats.
The case against a fifth guard has been dropped by the Justice Department. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.