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Attorney: Killings were in self defense
Article 32 hearing concludes
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The Article 32 hearing for a 3rd Infantry Division soldier accused of shooting and killing two of his fellow platoon leaders on Sept. 14 came to an end Wednesday with the defense arguing the killings were in self-defense.
Charles W. Gittins, one of four defense attorneys representing Sgt. Joseph C. Bozicevich, 39, of Minneapolis, told the investigating officer presiding over the hearing that his client had been trying to protect himself.
“We know there was a shooting in the JSS (joint security station),” Gittins told the judge during a final statement. “We know there were two soldiers running out of the JSS. Obviously, Sgt. Boz was concerned about his rear flank. Something happened in that room to cause Sgt. Bozicevich to feel he had to use his weapon. What I am saying is that something was going on in there.”
“[Sgt. Boz] was a good soldier. He always tried. He did not have a perfect record, but he always tried,” the attorney said.
Bozicevich has been charged with two counts of premeditated murder for the Sept. 14 homicides of his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson and a fellow team leader, Sgt. Wesley Durbin, at patrol base Jurf as Sahkr, south of Baghdad, Iraq.  
The men were members of the 2nd Platoon, Alpha Co., 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, and 4th Brigade Combat Team. The shootings occurred two months before the unit was scheduled to return to Fort Stewart from a 15-month deployment.
During the hearing, which began on Monday, the fact-finding judge, investigating officer Col. Michael J. Hargis, heard testimony from several soldiers who claimed they heard “bursts” of gunfire and then saw Bozicevich on the ground after being tackled by two other soldiers. 
One soldier, Staff Sgt. John Dresel, testified he saw Bozicevich actually shooting at Dawson, including when he was on the ground.
He also said he heard Bozicevich repeatedly say, “I’m glad they’re dead,” after the shooting.
However, all the soldiers testified that a few feet from where Bozicevich had been tackled laid Dawson’s bullet-riddled body.
The 24-year-old Dawson, of Pensacola, Fla., was pleading for his life and asking “why,” according to Dresel.
Moments later, they all testified, they were notified by an Iraqi interpreter known as “Jaime,” who also testified at the hearing, that another American soldier’s body had been found inside a room in the JSS. 
That soldier was Durbin, 26, of Dallas.
“Jaime” or Hiader Hamze Muter testified that he saw Bozicevich running and shooting at Dawson. He said he then saw Bozicevich return to the JSS and then come out, where Muter later saw him standing over Dawson’s body, before being tackled by two men.
There were no eye-witness accounts of how or when Durbin was killed.
However, evidence admitted at the hearing did imply all three men were carrying their weapons at the time.
According to Gittins and the defense, Jaime’s testimony, out of all 33 witnesses who testified, was the most accurate, indicating that Bozicevich acted in self-defense. The other soldiers who testified were coerced into telling the same story, the defense implied.
“The soldiers were told what happened …, ‘Sgt. Boz is a bad guy.’ And that’s the party line,” he said.
Gittins also said the judge, who recalled five witnesses Wednesday to ask if they heard what Dresel had described hearing, should discount the sergeant’s testimony.
“Sgt. Dresel is either an inaccurate recaller of events or a liar,” Gittins said.
Earlier testimony given at the hearing implicated that Bozicevich had gotten into trouble earlier in the day and was to be counseled by Dawson.
Bozicevich was also to have been removed from the position of team leader and was to switch positions with Durbin, assuming duties in the JSS.
Despite defense arguments for a lesser charge than premeditated murder, military prosecutors contended there was “ample evidence” to recommend Bozicevich be given a court-martial.
If found guilty of premeditated murder, Bozicevich could be sentenced to life in prison or put to death.
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