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Bowe's case: spotlighting importance of strong defense counsel

We last touched on the strange story and saga of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in our blog post dated July 1, noting therein that “the case continues to play out in the press.”

Indeed, it does, with no indications on the near horizon following that post that Bowe’s singular tale will fade from public view anytime soon.

For our readers who might need a bit of refreshing, Bowe -- a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan for approximately five years -- was exchanged earlier this year for five Taliban detainees held by American authorities.

We noted the “sheer polarity” marking Bowe’s release in our earlier blog, with views on how the Army should treat him ranging widely. Some persons have welcomed Bowe home as a hero. Others want to see him tried in a court-martial proceeding.

A recent poll conducted by the publication Military Times is instructive on multiple levels. The poll, which sought the views of respondents concerning how Army authorities should deal with Bowe, was certainly not unequivocal in its results. Sixty percent of the more than 4,400 readers responding to the survey stated that the military should subject Bowe to a court-martial. Only about seven percent believed that Bowe should be allowed to finish his military commitment and then receive an honorable discharge.

It should be noted that the strong approval of serious disciplinary proceedings against Bowe issues in the absence of material facts relating to the case known to the public.

That in turn certainly points to the raw emotion and desire for punishment that follows many criminal allegations, even at the investigatory stage and prior to any findings of fact. Bowe’s case strongly underscores the centrally important role played by proven defense counsel in promoting the interests of any person charged with a crime.

Even though Bowe has not been charged, it manifestly seems that a clear majority of persons interested in his story have already judged him, and in adverse fashion.

One poll respondent clearly picked up on that, calling the survey “awful.”

Source: Military Times, "Military Times survey: Court-martial Bergdahl," Jeff Schogol, July 17, 2014

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