CSI:IRAQ Goes to Court

Forensic archaeologist Sonny Trimble takes the witness stand in Baghdad, and the nation is riveted

"At one point I looked over at Saddam Hussein and his eyes were big as pies. He was just staring at the screen. He didn't have that hard-guy look. He had that oh-my-God look.

"One of the graves we worked at, Muthanna, had ten graves in the middle of the desert, and one guy survived from that killing. He testified. His name is Timor and he lives in Falls Church, Virginia. He's like 32, 33 now. He was shot in the shoulder and the back. His sister was killed right next to him, and his mother. But he crawled out from under the dirt the next day and was found by a Bedouin who took him into his family for two years and then took him up to Kurdistan and found what was left of his family. He eventually made it over to the U.S.

"He was beside himself — happy and sad. He wants to know if his sister was in the grave we excavated. It's possible to find that out, and we're gonna look into it. She was about eight or nine. I'm gonna run the numbers tomorrow to see how many six- to nine-year-olds we have. We've taken DNA samples; we just haven't run them. That would be a very nice thing if we could do that.

Forensic archaeologist Sonny Trimble testifying November 
30 at Saddam Hussein’s trial.
Chris Hondros/AFP/Getty Images
Forensic archaeologist Sonny Trimble testifying November 30 at Saddam Hussein’s trial.

"I was searching for days, for my closing statement, and out of sheer dumb luck my birthday was on the 26th of November and the team gave me a flag and they all signed it. One of the women wrote two lines from a Polish poet, a Nobel laureate [Wislawa Szymborska]: 'History counts its skeletons in round numbers. A thousand and one remain a thousand as though the one never existed.' And that was it — I had my closing line. I said: 'Your honor, we have not presented 300 remains to you; we've presented 301.' The whole room went silent.

"Chemical Ali, minutes later, puts his hands up, and says, 'Mr. Expert read a poem and I object to him reading a poem at the end, because that's not factual testimony. I'd like to read a poem from the Koran.' And the judge, without hesitating, looked at him and said, 'The expert found a professional poet. You're going to have to find one too. No.' Chemical Ali just looked at him. He didn't pursue it."

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