Four former Blackwater security contractors were convicted today in federal court for a 2007 mass shooting in Baghdad that left Iraqi civilians dead, the AP reports. (Some accounts cite an original death toll of 14, but the BBC notes that an Iraqi investigation later raised the total to 17; about the same number were injured.) Nicholas Slatten was found guilty of first-degree murder, while Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, and gun charges. The defense had claimed its clients were acting in self-defense after insurgents and Iraqi cops shot at them, while prosecutors painted a picture of the guards having a "low regard and deep hostility toward Iraqi civilians," as the AP describes it.
The defendants were ordered to jail immediately. Slatten faces life in prison and the others long stretches, but all are expected to appeal. On the day of the Sept. 16, 2007, shootings in Nisur Square, Blackwater guards were trying to clear the way for a State Department convoy before shots rang out, Reuters reports. There was "gunfire coming from the left, gunfire coming from the right," as hundreds of Iraqi people in the square fled, a prosecutor said in closing arguments. The case incited Iraqi outrage and anti-American feelings around the world and made some question what rules government-employed security contractors had to follow overseas, Reuters notes. (Not surprisingly, Blackwater isn't known as Blackwater anymore.)