A Fort Stewart soldier accused of shooting and killing his squad leader and a fellow U.S. soldier during a 2008 deployment to Iraq entered a not-guilty plea in court Tuesday.
As the jury-selection portion of Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich’s court martial got under way this week, Bozicevich entered his plea, according to Fort Stewart public affairs.
Bozicevich is charged with two counts of pre-meditated murder in the deaths of Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson and Sgt. Wesley Durbin. He is accused of murdering the two men three years ago while deployed to a base south of Baghdad, Iraq. All three men were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Fort Stewart spokesperson Kevin Larson said military judge Col. Tara Osborn has set three weeks aside for jury selection. The jury of at least 12 members will be comprised of both officers and noncommissioned officers, Larson said. Jurors will be chosen from among the 1,500 soldiers stationed at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, he confirmed.
Bozicevich’s attorneys have produced a juror questionnaire of more than 200 questions to help in the jury-selection process, the Associated Press reported.
Defense and government attorneys also sparred over what evidence should be admissible during trial, specifically crime-scene and autopsy photos.
On Monday, Osborn instructed government attorneys to have the faces of Dawson and Durbin cropped from autopsy photos, according to the AP. Before making her ruling that afternoon, the judge had lead prosecutor Maj. Andy McKee justify why the 211 crime-scene photos, including 21 autopsy photos, were relevant to the trail.
Bozicevich’s civilian attorney, Charles Gittins, had objected to photographs prosecutors had planned to show the jury, stating that showing images of blood stains would create bias against his client.
“It doesn’t serve any purpose to make the panel (jurors) ill,” Gittins said.
He added exhibiting multiple photos of the same piece of evidence would be “cumulative” and were not relevant to the case.
McKee told the judge many photos were necessary to illustrate perspective because the images depict a crime scene where the violence occurred “both indoors and out” and across a distance. He said a total of 27 shots were fired and therefore there are photographs of 27 shell casings.
McKee also argued the autopsy photos would prove at least one of the slain soldiers was shot in the back, according to the AP.
“The government does have a large number of photographs,” McKee said. “But they’re not gruesome and they’re not bloody.”
Gittins also protested what he described as “exceedingly excessive” security arrangements at the post building housing the courtroom.
“I thought security was going to be low key,” He said. “It strikes me as somewhat disingenuous. We’ve been doing this for 18 months now. I think it’s somewhat prejudicial to Sgt. Bozicevich.”
Opening statements in the trial are expected to be given April 18.