By Luis Ramirez
Prosecutors presented photographs Tuesday in the court martial of U.S. Army soldier Calvin Gibbs they say show he had a direct hand in alleged atrocities against Afghan civilians last year.
Tuesday was the second day of testimony in the court martial of Calvin Gibbs. The 26-year-old staff sergeant faces three counts of murder in addition to 13 other charges. He faces life in prison without parole, if convicted.
Gibbs, a former squad leader, is accused of masterminding and leading his platoon to carry out the killings of unarmed Afghan villagers in Kandahar province and staging them to appear like combat deaths. His attorney argues that Gibbs was betrayed by his comrades, who he alleges acted by their own will.
On the stand for a second day was chief prosecution witness Jeremy Morlock, once Gibbs’ right hand man in the platoon the staff sergeant headed. He testified that Gibbs spotted a victim at random, tossed a grenade, ordered Morlock and another soldier to shoot the man, then himself shot the man to make sure he was dead. Morlock said Gibbs then planted a hand grenade next to the Afghan victim, to make it appear that the man had tried to attack the U.S. soldiers.
Gibbs’ attorney denied his client shot the man, and called Morlock’s testimony into question by casting doubt on his accounts of where the man had been shot. Prosecutors then presented a photo of the man’s corpse shot in the back of the head, as Morlock had testified.
Tuesday’s testimony included more gory accounts of the atrocities allegedly committed by Gibbs, with the five members of the military panel trying the case being shown photos of bloody and mutilated corpses and severed fingers.
Among the other witnesses who testified Tuesday was Alexander Christy, a medic with Gibbs’ platoon who described seeing Gibbs hunch over the corpse of an Afghan teenager and, using a pair of shears, cut off the boy’s finger as a keepsake.
The medic said Gibbs taunted him for refusing to do the amputation. He described yet another disturbing scene of Gibbs playing with the boy’s body, moving its arms and mouth like a puppet.
At the end of the day, there was testimony from another platoon member who described how Gibbs led him and others to beat a soldier who they suspected was telling on them. The witness said Gibbs tried to intimidate the soldier by rolling out two severed fingers and threatening to kill him if he informed anyone of what the platoon was doing.
The case is alleged to be the worst atrocity committed by U.S. troops in the Afghan conflict. Nine platoon members have either pleaded guilty or been convicted and two others are awaiting courts martial.
No senior commanders above Gibbs have been tried or disciplined in the case.