Soldier found guilty of killing Afghan civilian

July 27, 2011 - 4:14 PM

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — A U.S. Army National Guardsman was found guilty Wednesday of premeditated murder in the shooting death of an Afghan civilian.

Sgt. Derrick Miller of Hagerstown, Md., faces a maximum punishment of life in prison at his scheduled sentencing at Fort Campbell later in the day.

His attorney had argued during two days of testimony that Miller acted in self-defense when he shot a man the military has identified as Atta Mohammed. The dead man's name was not used in court.

Defense attorney Charles Gittins told the jury that Miller stopped the Afghan man for questioning when he walked through a defensive perimeter that Miller's unit had set up around a mortar unit.

Gittins said Miller believed the man could be a threat to his unit and that during questioning the man tried to grab Miller's weapon.

Gittins told the military panel during closing arguments that if they believed Miller acted in self-defense, they must acquit him.

"You have Sgt. Miller's life in your hands," Gittins said.

But Spc. Charles Miller, an eye witness and Guardsman from Maryland, testified he heard Sgt. Miller threatening to kill the man if he didn't tell the truth and then straddling the man, who was lying on his back, before shooting him in the head.

Maj. Matt Calarco, a prosecuting attorney, said during closing arguments, "Immediately following the event the accused said, 'I shot him. He was a liar.'"

The 10-member jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Miller guilty.

Miller showed no reaction to the jury's decision, but family members cried quietly in their seats.

Miller was assigned to a Connecticut National Guard unit and attached to the 101st Airborne Division at the time of the shooting in Eastern Afghanistan.