WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an Army officer’s appeal of his conviction for killing an unarmed Iraqi prison detainee in 2008.
The justices let stand a divided decision by the military’s highest appeals court that upheld the conviction of 1st Lt. Michael Behenna for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone. Behenna is serving a 15-year prison sentence at a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
There is no dispute that Behenna was supposed to take the man home, but instead took him to a secluded railroad culvert, stripped him naked and shot him twice after interrogating him at gunpoint about an April 2008 roadside bombing that killed two men under Behenna’s command.
Behenna says he acted in self-defense when the man reached for Behenna’s handgun. In a 3-2 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said Behenna could not claim that he acted in self-defense because he was conducting an unauthorized interrogation at gunpoint.