U.S. soldiers lay in wait to kill Afghan farmer, hearing told

TACOMA, Wash. — Stryker brigade soldiers Pfc. Andrew Holmes and Spc. Jeremy Morlock took a knee behind a wall and talked while an Afghan farmer Morlock had called over walked toward them from a nearby poppy field.

At that moment on Jan. 15, Army prosecutors contend, the two soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord agreed to carry out a scheme to kill the civilian outside a village in southern Afghanistan.

Morlock threw the grenade; Holmes shot at the man with a machine gun. Prosecutors say the soldiers staged it to look like a combat incident, but that it was really cold-blooded murder.

That killing of a noncombatant was the first of three that a small group of soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division is charged with committing between January and May.

Holmes, 20, could face life in prison if an investigating officer who oversaw a fact-finding hearing Monday and Tuesday sides with prosecutors and recommends that Holmes face a full court-martial trial.

His attorney argues that Holmes had heard talk from Morlock about murder scenarios, but that Holmes had no idea one was taking place when Morlock yelled “He’s got a grenade” and ordered Holmes to fire at the Afghan coming out of the field.

“Those scenarios are so outlandish that only a complete psychopath would (a) think anybody would actually go through with them and (b) actually go through with them,” defense attorney Dan Conway said in his closing argument Tuesday.

Prosecutors counter that Morlock told investigators that Holmes knew the killing was staged and that Holmes said as much when he recounted the incident to his platoon mates.

Conway and an Army investigator who led the probe sparred over Morlock’s credibility. Morlock was taking pain medication during his first interview with Army investigators, and he has acknowledged smoking hashish during his deployment.

Conway also called two of Morlock’s platoon mates to testify; both said the soldier was “shady.”

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