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US army drops charges in Afghan civilian death case

The US Army dropped all charges against Army Specialist Michael Wagnon Friday, ending the final case in a series of related charges against five army personnel accused of killing Afghan civilians. Wagnon had been facing a charge of murder for his alleged involvement in the killing of three Afghan civilians and was expected to go to trial in March. All four of the other soldiers charged in connection with the killings were either convicted or pleaded guilty. In a statement Friday, Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield did not go into detail [News Tribune report] about why the charges against Wagnon were dropped, only saying that they were dropped "in the interest of justice." Wagnon was the last of the five soldiers, all members of the 5th Stryker Brigade, to go in front of the court-martial.

Sgt. Calvin Gibbs was convicted of three counts [JURIST report] of premeditated murder in November and was sentenced to life in prison. Gibbs admitted that he cut off fingers from the bodies to keep as trophies but claimed he was acting in self-defense and that they had fired first. Specialist Jeremy Morlock had pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in March to the same premeditated murders and received a sentence of 24 years in prison. As part of his plea deal, Morlock agreed to testify against Gibbs and the rest of his co-defendants. Private Andrew Holmes pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to murder in September and was sentenced [JURIST report] to seven years in prison as part of a plea deal. A month earlier, Specialist Adam Winfield also pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths, and was sentenced to three years in prison.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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