A request for a mistrial by attorneys for Spc. Neftaly Platero was denied Wednesday morning by military judge Lt. Col. Tiernan Dolan.
Platero is being tried on Fort Stewart for allegedly fatally shooting two other soldiers and wounding a third.
The mistrial request was made Tuesday while witness Spc. John Crane was being questioned by government attorneys. The defense claimed prosecutors had elicited Crane to make statements the court had suppressed.
Crane is a combat medic who helped treat Pfc. Jeffrey Shonk after the Sept. 23, 2010, shooting at Camp Fallujah, Iraq. Shonk received head and leg wounds, while Pfc. John Carrillo and Pfc. Gebrah Noonan were killed.
Civilian defense attorney Guy Womack reminded Dolan a statement made by Platero immediately following the shooting was ruled by the court as an “excited or spontaneous utterance,” and the government had agreed to suppress the statement: “They’re going to kill me.”
Womack said that statement included a contraction, which could be heard as, “They were going to kill me.”
Later, while several American soldiers stood around Platero, who was being held down by an Iraqi interpreter, Platero reportedly said, “Please don’t let them shoot me.”
The government argued that this non-suppressed statement was what they were trying to elicit from Crane. They said the next question to Crane would have been if he believed, as a medic, that Platero was in danger of being shot.
Dolan agreed, saying the defense’s concerns were without merit and overruled the objections.
When Crane was allowed to continue, he testified that when he entered Platero and the victims’ billet room he first saw senior medic Staff Sgt. Zachary MacFarland checking Noonan’s pulse. MacFarland was wearing a civilian T-shirt, Army physical training shorts and flip-flops, and he was holding his personal weapon, an M9 pistol.
Crane then saw Carrillo, who had headphones on his head. He said he checked Carrillo’s pulse. MacFarland told Crane to unload his weapon, which he had laid on the bed near him. He said he didn’t notice other weapons in the room but admitted he wasn’t looking for any.
The next witness, Staff Sgt. Kirk A. Oglesby, told prosecutors he was in bed in his room down the hall when he heard shots fired, despite wearing ear plugs. He also said he heard screaming and thought he heard someone yelling in Arabic. He said he thought they were under attack.
When cross-examined by defense attorney Maj. Paul Butler, Oglesby said he’s not sure he actually heard anyone speaking in Arabic. Butler reminded him that in a sworn statement written Sept. 24, 2010, he said he had heard someone yelling in Arabic.
“The Arabic, I can’t be sure about,” Oglesby repeated. “But I heard screaming.”
Butler reminded Oglesby he didn’t say he was unsure about hearing Arabic in his statement and asked him if events were clearer in his mind the day after the shooting than they are now. Oglesby reiterated he only thought he heard Arabic statements along with the screaming before he looked down the hallway.
Prosecutor Capt. Brett Lamborn reminded Oglesby he had been an infantryman 15 years, suggesting he might have had hearing loss from exposure to gunfire. Oglesby admitted he had a hearing loss, which may have led him to question if the statements he heard before he opened the door were Arabic.
Butler again reminded Oglesby of his sworn statement, saying he never mentioned a hearing problem.
Other witnesses who testified Wednesday included Michael Diggs, now a civilian but then a communications sergeant, and MacFarland, the senior medic. Diggs testified he saw Platero leaving the room immediately after the shooting.
MacFarland testified that his quarters were two buildings away from Platero’s room and that he didn’t hear any shots because he was watching a war movie at the time.
When he arrived at the room, he said he could smell cordite and smoke.
He saw Carrillo slumped over with a flashlight in his hand and Noonan on the floor with an officer standing over him.
As MacFarland began treating Shonk for what he thought was a graze wound to the head, he said he thought he saw brain tissue.
He described Shonk’s leg wound as so severe he thought Shonk might lose the leg if he survived the head wound. He applied a tourniquet.