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Alleged "kill team" leader back in court

Pvt. Jeremy Morlock's testimony has become crucial to the prosecution's case.
Courtesy of the U.S. Army
Pvt. Jeremy Morlock's testimony has become crucial to the prosecution's case.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The credibility of the prosecution's star witness is the key issue at the moment in a war crimes case unfolding at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. A second pre-trial hearing got underway Thursday for the alleged ringleader of a group of Washington-based soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians.

This second hearing is a chance for the defense to call witnesses who were not previously available. Chief among them: Army Private Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska.

Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 24 years in prison for the murders of three unarmed Afghan civilians while deployed in 2010. His testimony has become crucial to the prosecution's case.

On the stand Morlock detailed how Calvin Gibbs – a square-jawed sergeant from Montana – came up with the "kill team" scenarios and used fingers he'd cut off victims to intimidate another soldier. Morlock also testified that most of the soldiers in his platoon were aware of the alleged murders.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Phillip Stackhouse worked to undercut Morlock's credibility. He got Morlock to admit to extensive hashish and prescription drug use while deployed.

For a brief time, Boise soldier Andrew Holmes sat in the courtroom along with his mother. Holmes is currently awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in one of the murders.

Sgt. Gibbs' trial was delayed to allow for this second evidentiary hearing.

Army prosecutors have charged a total of six soldiers in connection with the so-called "kill team" scenarios.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.