The 28-year-old ex-US Army soldier, Steven Dale Green, was found dead in his cell on Saturday. He is presumed to have committed suicide by hanging himself five years into serving his sentence for raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl then shooting her family. Green was sentenced to life in 2009 without chance of parole and was carrying out his sentence in the United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona. Federal jurors were apparently at odds on whether the perpetrator should receive the death penalty and decided on giving him life in prison. Green committed the crimes while serving overseas in the army, it was there he raped 14-year-old girl, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, then shot and killed her parents, as well as her six-year-old sister in 2006 in a town 20 miles from Baghdad. He was 19 at the time he murdered the 14-year-old and set her body on fire. According to court testimony, Green held Abeer’s family at gunpoint while Abeer was being raped in another room by two other soldiers. He then shot them as the rape was occurring. The soldiers involved in the crime apparently tried to cover it up by blaming insurgents and Green stated that he as in an altered state of mind when he committed the crimes. He said in an interview that there “was not a word to describe how much [he] hated those people” when talking about Iraqis, adding that he did not think of them as humans at the time.
Lead prosecutors drew a picture to the court of a ringleader that lead a gang of five soldiers. He and his gang had apparently plotted to rape the victim, then afterward bragged about it to friends. Green was referred to as the “triggerman” of the group, he dressed in black ninja attire in preparation for the crime that happened after he and fellow soldiers drank whiskey and played cards.
Out of the four soldiers convicted, three of them plead guilty to the rape and murder crimes. The gang members received sentences ranging from five to 100 years in prison by a military-courts martial. The main perpetrator, Green, was tried as a civilian due to the fact that he was arrested after his 2006 honourable discharge from the U.S. Military. Green was discharged after being diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, which is defined as a person that has a pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others. It will be investigated whether Green’s disorder played a role in his death.
While his defense attorneys recognized that he took part in the murders, they alleged that he was under stress after the death of a few of his fellow soldiers. The prosecution on the other hand, described Green as having a predisposition to killing Iraqis. After the sentencing, Green stated that he was “punished out of proportion to everybody else” and was not treated fairly.
Five years before he was found dead, Green publicly stated an apology to the family of the victims but it was not well received. The relatives of the victims publicly denounced the sentence and stated that the actions of the perpetrator and his fellow soldiers have shattered their families and will continue to be a reminder of the trauma the victims went through. The rape and murder crimes have also strained relations between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.
By Lian Morrison