Monday, April 09, 2007

Dearing Saga is Over . . .?

It appears that the saga that was the Dearing case has ended with Dearing's plea in a Naval Station Norfolk courtroom and a 10 year sentence, essentially time served. CAAF set aside the conviction based on the failure to give a self-defense instruction. The case was remanded with several hiccups, reported here and here, including the Navy's seeming inability to transfer Dearing to pre-trial confinement. The Virginian-Pilot reported that Dearing pled guilty last week, and may be free today (will we see another Dearing writ on that . . . ). The military judge sentenced him to 40 years confinement. The terms of his PTA suspended all confinement in excess of 10 years. The following interesting exchange is included in the Pilot story.

Dearing pleaded not guilty in 2000, saying he had acted in self-defense. According to court records, his lawyers asked the judge, Clark A. Price, to instruct the jury about self-defense and escalating violence in a fight.
Price chose not to do so - and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces cited that error, and an appeal so lengthy it violated his rights, when it overturned Dearing's conviction last September.
Dearing told a different story Wednesday. Responding to questions from Booker, Dearing testified that none of the victims had threatened him.
"You were actually the aggressor here?" Booker asked.
"Yes, sir," Dearing responded.
"You were never placed in a position of helplessness? You weren't pinned down, you weren't cornered?"
"No, sir," Dearing replied.


John O'Connor said...

I always thought it was shortsighted for a prosecutor to get all hung up on instructions except in the most extraordinary circumstances. I always felt that I could argue around instructions and if an issue was weak enough to support an argument that no instruction should be given, that I could convince the members that the defense wasn't viable. It's too hard to retry cases in the military justice system for prosecutors to embed potential error in the record of trial unnecessarily.

CAAFlog said...

Today's update to the CAAF daily journal includes an entry from Thursday denying the latest Dearing ex writ. So maybe it really is over -- except for the automatic appeal of the guilty plea and sentence, of course.

egn said...

I can't believe that under the circumstances of the stabbing, Dearing got 40 years from the military judge. Though Virginian Pilot article incorrectly states that if Dearing commits any misconduct in the next year, he will have to serve the full 40 years of confinement. Since his original sentence included only 25 years, that will serve as the cap, no matter how much misconduct Dearing commits while cutting hair in Tennessee. Personally, I find it a rather ironic career choice -- that Dearing should seek to earn a living applying sharp instruments to paying clientele?

Jason Grover said...

I always thought that about the USDB barber shop at Leavenworth too.