Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Jury Reviews Witness' Testimony In Trial of Navy SEAL Charged With Murder

Cover image for podcast episode

A jury of seasoned combat veterans partially reviewed a witness's testimony Tuesday after resuming deliberations in the murder case of a decorated Navy SEAL accused of fatally stabbing a wounded war prisoner in Iraq and shooting civilians in separate incidents in 2017.

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's all down to the jury now, closing arguments wrapped up yesterday in the court martial of navy seal chief Edward Gallagher. The trial has been a roller coaster of possible White House intervention, prosecutorial missteps, and surprise testimony. Now a military jury is deciding with a Gallagher is guilty of murder as charged for stabbing a wounded isis soldier. Joining me as KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh, Steve. Hi.

Speaker 2: 00:27 Hi Maureen.

Speaker 1: 00:28 I know that you near the courthouse in downtown San Diego, but what's gone on today?

Speaker 2: 00:33 So what's going on today is I'm sitting here at Naval Base San Diego outside the court room here, which is on the base and we are a patiently waiting. So far there has been no ruling. We did get a, this is tells you kind of the difference between military court and civilian court. The jury did want to hear some additional testimony, so they went all the way back to the beginning to the first witness called by the prosecutors. This is the second in command lieutenant McNeil. They wanted to hear his testimony. Now, interesting thing about McNeil is that he didn't see a stabbing when he also didn't see Gallagher shooting anyone. He basically a testify on that first day that he heard on the radio that Gallagher said that lay off, he's mine. That is w uh, when Gallagher races back to the compound and then he, uh, arrives there and there is the wounded detainees. Now the jury stopped though after, after, uh, McNeil testified that he saw Gallagher holding his own nuns in his hand over the dead prisoner. Now McNeil hadn't seen the prisoner alive when he came in and then have left and then came back and he saw Gallagher with a knife after the detainee was already dead. This was not considered really bombshell testimony on that first day, but it's something that's significant to the jury.

Speaker 1: 01:55 Now the prosecution had a major surprise on the stand during testimony in this trial when another seal said he actually closed the prisoners breathing tube killing the man after Gallagher stabbed him. How did the prosecution handled that in closing arguments?

Speaker 2: 02:12 Well. Yeah. So we have, uh, two seals who say that they saw actually delegate stamp him. Corey Scott, who gave that bombshell testimony that he was the one who closed off the breathing tube after gallacher stamped him. He said Gallagher walked away and then as a mercy killing, he closed off in our way. And we also saw Craig Miller, who is seen as one of the main accusers who said he saw Gallagher stab him with the knife and blood poured out of the neck. He said like a baby vomit. Um, you know, but on the other side of this, you had, uh, a a, a marine radio, uh, Raider Giorgio Carrillo who says he saw no stab wounds on the body and that's when he was taking the body to pose for his own photo. Within that detainee.

Speaker 1: 02:55 What is the defense positions on this case? What, what did they say to the jury?

Speaker 2: 03:00 So the defense is arguing that this is basically a prosecution that was out of control. They spend a lot of time talking about Joe work. Pinsky who, who's the lead investigator for NCIF who conducted this investigation or Pinsky had only been at NCIF for two and a half years before that. He had spent seven years of the border patrol. Um, that's not a very senior person for someone who is going to be covering what it became a nationally televised war crimes trial. They paint the, a, the prosecutors being sloppy that they didn't interview all of the witnesses and that this was essentially a vendetta against, uh, a young millennial seals against their much more experienced chief.

Speaker 1: 03:44 Now you made the point that military accord is not the same as civilian court. Who is on this jury and what does it take to convict?

Speaker 2: 03:54 So this is a journey of only seven. They started with, uh, well at the most. They started with 12 and they whittled it down to seven. And, uh, it only takes five of those members to convict. We've got five marines and two from the navy and one commander who's now the jury foreman and a, and actually at Abco and enlisted maybe field who was also on that jury. So they can do things that you don't really normally see in a revealing report. They can downgrade some of these charges. So for, um, the premeditated murder charge for the detainee, they can, they can reduce that down to a non premeditated murder all the way down to aggravated assault. Um, on these other charges, they can do many of them. They can do much the same. So it's, it's a little different. We've got a couple of different aggravated assault charges here. They could downgrade those as well. And we've got everything down to posing with a, the body, which is the, uh, the charge that carries the least potential amount of time, which is only four months in, in jail at a maximum.

Speaker 1: 05:01 And this has been such a strange trial. Do you have any predictions, Steve?

Speaker 2: 05:05 Well, I have met him. You know, we, you've got the national media out here. Many of us have been here for weeks now. We were all become jailhouse lawyers here, speculating on what will happen. Um, it is almost impossible to tell you he could come out of there and be acquitted on all charges or because of the way the system work. It could be a whole range of different sentences. Now, we do know in this case that once they'll be, they will decide in a verdict if he's convicted on any of these charges, they'll just roll right into this sentencing phase where each side will bring in witnesses. The defense will bring in witnesses. We'll say that Gallagher, you know, the kind of person that he is to try to reduce that sentence. The prosecutors will bring in witnesses to point out the seriousness of events to try to get to the largest sentence possible for chief Gallagher.

Speaker 1: 05:54 I've been speaking with KPBS military reporters, Steve Walsh and Steve, thank you so much.

Speaker 2: 05:59 Thanks, Maureen.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.