Conviction against Marine tossed after General’s interference

The United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals (NMCCA) recently ruled that a November ruling that voided the conviction of a Marine involved in an infamous incident in Afghanistan in 2011 would be allowed to stand, according to Military.com. The Marine was one of eight who had faced punishment for being filmed urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters, an incident that sparked international outrage. However, an appeal was filed after it was later discovered that the then-Commandant General had interfered in the case to such an extent that the accused Marine could not be guaranteed a fair trial.

Notorious incident sparks investigation

The notorious incident occurred in 2011 and video of it was eventually featured on TMZ in January 2012, according to the Washington Post. The video immediately led to international condemnation, including from then-Commandent Gen. James F. Amos. Amos subsequently appoint then-Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser to investigate and potentially bring charges forward against the Marines in the video. As part of the investigative process, Amos was required to stay away and not interfere.

However, when Waldhauser informed Amos that he did not think the incident warranted the Marines being sent to a general court-martial, Amos responded that the Marines involved in the incident needed to be "crushed" and discharged. Amos then threatened to remove Waldhauser from the case, which eventually he did, although he claimed he was doing so in order "to protect the institutional integrity of the military justice process" and not because he was trying to interfere with what should have been an independent investigation.

Erosion of trust in trial

One of the Marines involved in the incident pleaded guilty in a pretrial agreement in 2012 to a number of charges, including dereliction of duty and violating a lawful general order. However, none of the accused Marines had been informed of the reasons for Waldhauser's removal from the investigation.

As a result, in November the NMCCA ruled that the conviction against that particular Marine was void due to an "unusually flagrant example" of unlawful command influence in the case. The NMCCA determined that the interference in the case by Amos was to such an extent that the public's trust in the legal proceedings against the Marine had been highly corroded. That decision was reaffirmed by the court in January and the government now has two months to decide if it wants to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Service.

Legal help military clients

Going up against a court-martial can be a daunting task, which is why military members who are facing a court-martial or a military investigation need to reach out to an experienced court-martial lawyer today. As the above article shows, mistakes and abuses can lead to an unfair investigation or judgment. A lawyer can help military clients fight vigorously against any charges that may be filed against them.