WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii (AP) _ The lawyer for a Hawaii-based soldier accused of killing an unarmed Iraqi last year said Wednesday the shooting was neither unlawful nor premeditated.
Defense attorney Frank Spinner said the defense won't contest that Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales shot the man during the June 23 incident. Instead, he said the question was whether the shooting was justified as part of a raid on a house suspected of being an insurgent hide out.
Spinner, in opening remarks at Corrales' court-martial, said his client was worried an AK-47 was buried in the backyard of the house and concerned the yard hadn't been secured by his scout platoon.
"He'll say, 'I was shocked, surprised, upset and I shot,'" Spinner told the nine-member panel, including five enlisted soldiers, serving on the military justice system's equivalent of a jury during the court-martial.
Corrales, of San Antonio, pleaded not guilty Monday to all three charges against him: premeditated murder, wrongful solicitation of another soldier to shoot an unarmed, wounded Iraqi and planting an AK-47 rifle next to the victim after the shooting.
Corrales faces a minimum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole if he's convicted.
The court-martial is expected to last at least through the end of the week.
It is the highest profile military trial for alleged crimes committed in Iraq by a Hawaii-based serviceman since the U.S. invasion in 2003.
The alleged incident centers around a raid Corrales' scout platoon conducted on a house near Kirkuk in northern Iraq suspected of harboring insurgents who had been planting roadside bombs.
The U.S. military has not disclosed the victim's name because they have been unable to identify him.
Corrales, who was serving both as platoon sergeant and platoon leader at the time, led the late night assault on the house.
Capt. Laura O'Donnell, the chief prosecutor, said during her opening statement that Corrales had planned the shooting from the moment he learned of the mission.
She said Corrales ordered his fellow soldiers to "kill all military age males" in the house.
Spc. Franklin Hambrick, a member of the scout platoon who participated in the raid, testified he escorted the Iraqi man to Corrales after the man's hands tested positive for explosives.
Hambrick said the man, like the other five men detained in the house, had been subdued and had no weapons on him. He said Corrales took the detainee to the backyard, and told him to run. The man started walking backward, with his hands raised, when Corrales raised his weapon and fired several shots, Hambrick said.
Army investigator Jesse Whaley, testifying for the prosecution, said Corrales admitted to shooting the man several times when he was interrogated a few days after the incident.
Whaley said Corrales was cooperative at the beginning of the seven-hour interview which started after 5 a.m. on June 26. But he said Corrales later became upset and cried a few times. Whaley quoted Corrales as saying "I'm so screwed … I'm going to jail for murder."
Corrales' attorney challenged Whaley's recollection of the interview because the investigator didn't take notes or record the session with audio or video equipment.
Whaley said he wrote up his notes immediately after the interview.
Pvt. Christopher Shore, who was court-martialed in February in connection with the same incident, testified Corrales told him to "finish him" or fire additional shots at the Iraqi man to kill him.
Shore said he fired two shots off to the side. Shore was convicted of aggravated assault for his role in the incident.
But Spinner, in his opening remarks, said Corrales didn't order Shore to shoot the man.
The jurors heard from nine prosecution witnesses Wednesday before the court recessed. The defense has yet to call any witnesses.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.