Thursday, May 06, 2010

All 3 Navy Seals acquitted of Iraqi detainee abuse

Some people believe "military justice" is an oxymoron.

As an Air Force ADC (Area Defense Counsel) for a year and a half, I had 21 trials. 14 were guilty pleas, and 7 litigated (i.e., where my clients pled not guilty). Of my litigated cases, I had 2 outright acquittals, 4 partial acquittals, and one conviction reversed on appeal. (That reversal was from one of my partial acquittals; I had one case where my client pled not guilty and was convicted of everything -- our theory in that case was that he was telling the truth, and the three witnesses against him were lying).

Civilians generally do not understand that, to avoid unlawful command influence, military defendants actually have more rights than civilian defendants.

However, it sounds like the detainee abuse case involving 3 Navy Seals was a weak case to begin with. All three turned down nonjudicial punishment (meaning, they were first offered administrative punishment). If their commander, or the convening authority, thought there was strong enough proof for a court-martial, they would have preferred charges and gone to a general court-martial in the first place. The fact that the 3 were acquitted should inspire more confidence in a military justice system that works.

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