Stressful conditions should not excuse soldier from execution

A 14-year-old girl was raped and killed in her home by U.S. Army soldiers. One of the soldiers was sentenced to life in prison. This was the wrong decision — he deserved the death penalty.

According to The New York Times, Private Steven Green and other soldiers decided to commit this unthinkable crime while drinking Iraqi whiskey March 11, 2006. The soldiers testified that Green killed the girl’s mother, father and little sister, then each of the of soldiers each raped the girl and finally Green shot her in the head. 

During the trial, lawyers for the defendant did not deny their client’s wrongdoing, but instead focused on building a case arguing that Green should not receive the death penalty. Soldiers that knew him testified that Green served in unusually stressful conditions, his unit suffered heavy casualties and he didn’t receive sufficient Army guidance and control.

Scott Wendelsdorf, one of Green’s defense attorneys, said, “Steven Green was responsible (for the rape and murders), but the United States of America failed Steven Green.”

How did the country fail Green? The country provided Green with a future — they gave him educational benefits, economic compensation and the chance to be a part of history. 

In actuality, Green failed the United States of America. He knowingly breached his contract with his country and the Army. The defendant enlisted in the Army entirely by his own choice, knowing that he was going to war. This criminal knew what he was getting himself into and should suffer the death penalty for his ruthless actions.

Though Green served in an area of Iraq called the “Triangle of Death” and experienced traumatic events, as a conscious adult he should not have done what he did. As a soldier of the U.S Army, he was trained to handle these situations and in no way should any excuses be made for his unforgivable behavior. 

According to the Boston Herald, Green was tried in federal court as a civilian for murder, rape and obstruction of justice charges because he was discharged from the Army before his arrest due to a “personality disorder.” 

On May 21, 2009, the jury, which consisted of nine women and three men, could not come to a unanimous decision and therefore the life sentence decision prevailed. The other soldiers are also receiving life sentences with the eligibility for parole within 10 years or less. 

The jury deliberated for 10 hours over two days for this case. Though no one knows the exact points the jurors were deliberating on, one argument that should have been brought up is, “What if this was your family?” If this happened to my family, I would want
payback. If America lets these criminals commit senseless crimes without proper punishment, it gives leeway for others to do the same thing.

The jury should have also taken into account the defendant’s actions after the crime was committed. According to statements from the other soldiers involved in the crime, Green bragged about what he had done, saying it was “awesome.”

Opponents may argue that the death sentence is cruel and unusual punishment, but this is not the case. Watching your mother, father and little sister be shot and killed, being raped multiple times and then being shot in the head, however, certainly qualifies.

The Iraqi civilians did not decide to go to war with the U.S. and are in no way responsible for the deaths of U.S. soldiers. The soldiers’ resentment toward the Iraqi government in no way justifies the punishment of innocent civilians. 

According to Reuters, relatives of the 14-year-old expressed their outrage that the lead soldier received a life sentence instead of being executed. This former soldier killed a total of four people, raped one girl, and set her house on fire to cover up his crime. If he had not been a soldier, the jury would almost certainly have bestowed the death penalty.

Had they agreed upon the death penalty for the defendant, the jury would have made the consequences of this crime clear to others. This trial should have set a precedent that soldiers will pay for crimes committed while serving overseas. Instead, it showed that the U.S. court system is biased toward them.

Xhenis Berberi is a senior majoring in economics and political science.