The war crimes trial of a Navy SEAL charged with the 2017 stabbing death of a teenaged ISIS prisoner took a sharp turn Thursday with a shocking admission by a key witness. Another SEAL told a court martial he killed the prisoner.
But prosecutors say this does not change anything and they will not drop the premeditated murder charges against Navy SEAL chief Edward Gallagher. They said, “the credibility of a witness is for the jury to decide.”
Prosecution witness and SEAL medic Corey Scott told the court the boy was sedated and breathing through a tube when Gallagher stabbed him in the neck. But Scott said the injuries weren’t life threatening. He then claimed he was the one who killed the teen by holding his “thumb over his tracheal tube until he quit breathing.” He said he did it to spare him from torture by Iraqi forces. Gallagher’s defense team has claimed he only treated the prisoner for a collapsed lung and that the murder accusations are false.
Video shows the teen injured in an airstrike before his capture. He told an Iraqi news crew his father threatened to kill him if he didn’t join ISIS.
Scott was granted immunity from criminal prosecution this week and prosecutors accused him of lying to protect Gallagher. His testimony contradicted his previous statements as well as the testimony of other SEALs. One said Gallagher posed in front of the corpse and prosecutors say he texted a photo saying, “good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.” The impact of Scott’s testimony will ultimately be up to the military jury.
New York Times national correspondent Dave Philipps has been covering the trial.
“This guy who had a front row seat to what chief Gallagher did says very clearly that he stabbed a captive in the neck and then left,” Philipps said. “Now the fact that the medic a few minutes later made a mercy killing, I don’t know if that exonerates their client.”
Gallagher is also accused of randomly shooting at Iraqi civilians and threatening to retaliate against members of his team who reported him.
Gallagher’s wife said her husband has been vindicated after Scott claimed responsibility for the teenage ISIS fighter’s death. “My husband will be exonerated and his innocence will be known to everybody after way too long,” she said.
Tim Parlatore, Gallagher’s attorney, said while the trial will certainly go on, he expects there will be a not guilty verdict.