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Mistrial declared in case of Blackwater security guard charged with massacre of Iraqi civilians

Crime
A "No Trespassing" sign marks the driveway leading to Blackwater's training facility on Oct. 2, 2007, in Mount Carroll, Illinois. The retrail of former Blackwater security guard Nicholas Slatten has ended in a mistrial. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The trial of a former Blackwater security guard who was accused of firing the first shots in a civilian massacre in Iraq has ended in a mistrial.

What is this trial about?

Blackwater Worldwide was a private security firm founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a wealthy former Navy SEAL.  Blackwater was hired by the United States government to assist with the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater has since been rebranded, first as Xe Services in 2009 and then later as Academi in late 2011.

On Sept. 16, 2007 a truck full of Blackwater employees shot at civilians in a crowded square in Baghdad. At least 31 civilians ended up either dead or injured following the incident. Some of the Blackwater contractors present that day testified that they thought that the shooting was unjustified.

In 2014, four of the Blackwater guards were convicted on 30 counts of manslaughter. Thirty Iraqi survivors traveled to the United States to testify in their trial.

In August, a federal appeals court ruled that one of these four guards, 34-year-old Nicholas A. Slatten, should get a new trial. The court ruled that he should have been tried separately from another convicted Blackwater guard, Paul A. Slough. Slatten was accused of firing the first shots during the massacre. Slough has since said that he should get the blame for that himself.

Slatten had been charged with first-degree murder. Slough and the other two guards, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard, were charged with attempted manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, and gun charges. A fifth guard was cleared of all charges, while a sixth was sentenced in 2015.

What happened at the trial?

A jury of five women and seven men sent a note to the judge last week informing him that they were unable to reach a consensus. The judge ordered them to go home for the weekend, saying that they would reconvene on Tuesday and try again. However, once back in court the 12 jurors failed to reach an agreement and a mistrial was declared.

Prosecutors are scheduled to announce on Sept. 14 whether they will try the case again. Slatten will remain in custody until then.

The other three guards also face resentencing, but their trials were put off until after Slatten's was complete.

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