U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, a former soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, is serving a life sentence at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
FORT BELVOIR, Va. — U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, convicted of masterminding the murders of three Afghan civilians in 2010, asked a military appeals court in Virginia on Friday to consider new evidence in his case that could lead to a new trial.
Gibbs, a former soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, is serving a life sentence at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., after a jury found him guilty of leading a team of Stryker soldiers in a scheme to slay innocent people while on patrol in a remote outpost in southern Afghanistan.
The group gained international attention and became known as the “kill team” after photographs showed them posing with Afghan corpses.
On Friday, Gibbs’ attorney, Phil Stackhouse, asked the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Fort Belvoir, Va., to consider new evidence in the case that includes new statements from two fellow soldiers who now back Gibbs’ contention that at least one of the killings was due to legitimate combat engagement.
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“Our goal is to have a post-trial hearing to delve into these matters,” Stackhouse told a panel of three judges, adding that it marked the initial step toward asking for a new trial.
Judge Steven Haight sounded skeptical, telling Stackhouse that one of the new statements was not a sworn affidavit made under oath.
“This is just an email,” Haight said, questioning how much weight the court should give such a statement.
Anne Hsieh, an attorney representing the government, argued that Gibbs’ request should be denied, citing “overwhelming evidence” to support his conviction. She said the statements only showed a “minor inconsistency” and that even if they were considered as possible evidence, it was unlikely there would be a different verdict for Gibbs.
“It’s just not true,” countered Stackhouse, saying the statements could severely damage much of the government’s case against Gibbs.
Stackhouse told the judges that while Gibbs admitted to a “significant amount of misconduct” during his trial, he had always been adamant that he did not engage in premeditated murders.
During court proceedings in 2010 and 2011, Gibbs said he shot one Afghan who had fired at him first. After killing the man, Gibbs said, he cut a finger off the dead man’s body because he was “pretty pissed off” that the man had tried to kill him.
Gibbs, a veteran of deployments to Iraq, testified that he was trying to look tough for junior soldiers on their first combat missions.
While Gibbs got a life sentence, another member of the “kill team,” Spc. Jeremy Morlock, received a 24-year sentence, also at Fort Leavenworth. Morlock testified in court that Gibbs had planned one of the killings and planted an AK-47 on his victim to make it look as if the Afghan had shot first.
Gibbs was found guilty on 15 criminal counts by a military jury in November 2011. Along with the three murder charges, he was convicted of conspiring to kill innocent civilians, assaulting a junior-ranking soldier, keeping body parts from corpses and illegally possessing “off the books” weapons. Twelve soldiers from Gibbs’ platoon in JBLM’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division came home accused of criminal misconduct.
While the judges heard oral arguments Friday, they made no decision. Haight told the attorneys that they would take the matter under advisement and make a ruling later.