Jury selection began Wednesday in the trial of four former Blackwater security guards charged with the killing of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 18 others during a shootout in a Baghdad traffic circle.
A pool of 111 potential jurors will be narrowed down to just 12 over the next few days for the trial taking place at the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. Dozens of people, including several Iraqi civilians, will be called to testify in the case, which is expected to last for several months.
Former Blackwater guard Nicholas Slatten is charged with the most serious crime of first degree murder. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Guards Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard face up to 30 years behind bars if found guilty on charges of voluntary manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and discharging automatic weapons.
The four defendants allegedly shot Iraqi civilians trying to flee from a traffic circle in downtown Baghdad in September 2007 after a car bombing that apparently targeted a U.S. State Department official.
The defense plans to argue that the guards acted in self-defense because they say the Blackwater team was under fire from insurgents.
U.S. government prosecutors will likely contend that the use of deadly force was unnecessary.