Command influence leads to conviction being overturned
A former Marine has had his conviction overturned due to unlawful command interference by a top officer.
A U.S. Marine who was convicted for his part in a notorious incident in Afghanistan in 2011 has had that conviction overturned due to improper command influence, reports the Washington Post. The Marine had been sentenced to 30 days’ confinement in 2012 after video emerged online showing him and multiple other marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. However, it later emerged that the Marine Corps’ top officer at the time likely interfered with the investigation and pushed for a courts martial even after an independent investigation recommended against one.
The infamous 2011 incident caused an international uproar when TMZ first reported on it in January 2012. Numerous administration officials at the time, including top Marine Corps officials, publicly condemned the actions portrayed in the video and then-Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser was appointed to lead an investigation.
However, when Waldhauser reported that he did not think a general court-martial was justified in the case, the top officer of the Marine Corps at the time, Gen. James F. Amos, replied that the soldiers filmed in the video needed to be “crushed” and discharged. When Waldhauser still refused to recommend a general court-martial, he was eventually removed from the case. In dismissing Waldhauser, Amos claimed that he was doing so to protect the integrity of the military justice process and not because of what could “be perceived as possibly interfering” with what was supposed to be an independent investigation.
Conviction tossed out
In the meantime, one of the soldiers filmed in the video pleaded guilty to a number of charges in relation to the incident in 2012. As Military.com reports, he was sentenced to 30 days’ confinement, demoted, and had his pay docked. However, neither he nor any of the other defendants in the case had been informed of Amos’ possible interference in the investigation.
As a result, five years after that conviction, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals tossed the conviction entirely, largely due to the above mentioned evidence of unlawful command influence. The judges noted that public trust in the military justice process could no longer be assured, noting that Amos calling for the defendants to be “crushed” amounted to “an unusually flagrant example” of unlawful command influence.
Members of the U.S. armed forces who face the prospect of being charged at courts-martial or are facing administrative discipline or separation proceedings need to contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney who has a proven track record in military justice can help clients navigate their options and defend them against whatever charges or investigations they may be up against.