ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Stunning development is an overused cliche. But in this instance, the phrase fits. It happened today in the trial of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher. Chief Gallagher is accused of war crimes, including killing a teenage ISIS captive. Today a fellow SEAL testified that he, not Gallagher, is the one who killed the young man. And a warning - some of the details of that killing are disturbing to hear. Reporter Steve Walsh of member station KPBS has been covering the trial in San Diego, and he joins us. Welcome.
STEVE WALSH, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: So you were in the courtroom today. Tell us what happened. It sounds like it was just a shocking, unexpected turn of events.
WALSH: No, it was completely unexpected. It was like something out of a Hollywood movie. You don't expect someone to declare that they're the real killer.
SHAPIRO: Especially when that person was a witness for the prosecution.
WALSH: Exactly. They're a witness for the prosecution. So Corey Scott was a medic. He was there on the scene in Iraq with Gallagher. He was beside him. And he testified, much like prosecutors expected him to testify, that Gallagher took a knife, plunged it into the neck of this wounded Iraqi fighter that they were providing medical care to. It was the sort of blow that was not designed for any sort of medical treatment but to injure the Iraqi fighter.
And it was all following the script. And then Corey Scott says in cross-examination by the defense that it was not Gallagher that killed him, that it was, in fact, Corey Scott who killed him by closing off a breathing tube for the wounded fighter. And then he slowly watched him die.
SHAPIRO: Now, Scott had presumably gone through depositions. How had this not come out earlier?
WALSH: Well, that's what the defense was saying. They're saying it was sloppiness on the part of naval investigators and prosecutors. Obviously, prosecutors were incredibly upset by this turn of events. And they pointed out on the stand that he had spoken to prosecutors several times - they had asked him to go step by step in this - and that he had never mentioned closing off the airway. And he'd never said that in any of his testimony to naval investigators either.
SHAPIRO: And he now has immunity, so he won't be prosecuted for this. Is that right?
WALSH: In the whole buildup to the case, one of the twists and turns - that there are seven SEALs that have been granted immunity to testify in this case. Corey Scott is one of those. He can still be prosecuted for perjury, but he cannot be prosecuted for any statements that he makes, including, apparently, admitting to a killing.
SHAPIRO: And what does this mean for Gallagher, the man on trial, who is accused of this killing?
WALSH: Well, as you can imagine, during the first break after this testimony, Gallagher was out in the hallway with his family and children. They were jubilant. They see this as a real turning point in this case - though he's not only charged with killing a teenage ISIS fighter, he's also charged with shooting at an elderly man and a young woman with his sniper rifle.
On the other side, prosecutors are still moving ahead with their case. They were calling other SEALs from Gallagher's platoon to testify in this case, as well. So they're moving ahead. They were already making the case on the stand that Corey Scott is not telling the truth. The reason why he's never said that he had killed anyone is because he's a friend of Gallagher's. He was asked, what do you think of Chief Gallagher? He said that he liked him, he had no problem with Chief Gallagher and that he didn't want him to go away for the rest of his life.
SHAPIRO: That is reporter Steve Walsh on a dramatic day in court in San Diego. Thank you very much.
WALSH: Thank you Ari.
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