The government’s case against five Blackwater guards has unraveled after the Blackwater charges were dismissed by Federal Judge Ricardo Urbina. In the ruling the government prosecutors, scolded by Judge Urbina, do not come across as the best and the brightest of the Justice Department. The case stems from a shootout in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead and wounded over two dozen. The incident occurred in September 2007and the Department of Justice brought manslaughter charges against the Blackwater guards involved in the shooting.

Blackwater Guards 1

Although the charges have been dismissed the Justice Department may appeal the ruling, or may seek new charges against the men. Charges were originally brought against six men, and prosecutors were able to obtain a guilty plea from one of the men involved in the shooting. Read more about the case, and see a video from when charges were first brought, below.

In the 90 page, detailed ruling issued by Judge Urbina, the prosecution does not come off looking well at all. The judge criticized the handling of the case in all stages of the case. The judge was especially critical of the use of statements made by the guards immediately following the incident, despite the warnings from senior prosecutors. In the ruling the judge wrote:

“In short, the government has utterly failed to prove that it made no impermissible use of the defendants’ statements or that such use was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,”

The problem with the use of the statements was that they were given with the express understanding that the statements would not be used against the men in court. The government then used those statements to develop their investigation and the prosecution of the men.

The judge in the case also stated that the prosecutors explanations regarding the use of the statements were “lacking in credibility.” If the guards had been convicted of the manslaughter and weapons charges being brought against them they would have faced mandatory 30 year prison sentences.

The defense lawyers questioned every aspect of the prosecution, even going so far as to question whether the Court had jurisdiction to hear the case. The ruling does not appear to touch on any of the jurisdictional issues, but the claims seem to have merit. None of the victims were Americans, and the acts did not take place in the United States. The trial was scheduled to begin on February 1st of 2010.

The ruling is another setback for the Department of Justice after also being scolded for the handling of the Senator Ted Steven’s prosecution. The win at all costs attitude of the Department of Justice has really come back to haunt the Government. The Judge ruled that the use of the statements, which were promised not to be used, violated the rights of the guards. I’m proud of the judge for holding the government to the high standards demanded by the constitution when it comes to criminal prosecution.

So, all in all it was a bad end of the year for the Department of Justice. The Blackwater Charges Dismissed by the Federal Judge and the Government Prosecutors scolded by Judge Urbina for their handling of the case are going to have to put in some serious work if they want to revive the case. I doubt the prosecution is going to appeal the ruling, but the fact that they brought the charges in the first place make me question their judgment. There are going to be plenty of people who are going to be upset by the ruling, but I believe the judge got it right. What do you think? Did the judge do the right thing, or should the case be allowed to proceed?