Stryker witnesses shared jail cell in Afghanistan

TACOMA, Wash. -- Army officers had good reason to fear for the safety of their best witnesses when they opened a probe into suspected war crimes among a group of Stryker soldiers stationed in southern Afghanistan.

A private who led them to the unit had already been assaulted by seven comrades when he raised concerns about drug use in the platoon. Other witnesses said they were scared of Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the charismatic squad leader who allegedly concocted schemes to kill Afghan civilians and threatened his fellow soldiers.

The solution was to house key witnesses in the same living quarters for their own safety while they were still in Afghanistan. That decision protected Spc. Jeremy Morlock, Cpl. Emmitt Quintal and Spc. Adam Winfield as the Army built its case that Gibbs and four others murdered noncombatants. Morlock and Winfield were among those charged with murder.

“We thought it was best that these guys at least had each other,” Army special agent Anderson Wagner, who led the investigation, testified at a pretrial hearing for Morlock in September.

The shared witness housing may have made sense in Afghanistan, but defense attorneys now contend that the soldiers used that time to work out their stories. The attorneys have been challenging the sworn statements the three key witnesses gave to Army investigators between May 11 and May 13 on the grounds that they’re filled with hearsay.

Read more: