Thursday, December 04, 2008

SSgt Martinez Acquitted

As reported here, the members in the Ft. Bragg capital, fragging court-martial returned not guilty verdicts on all counts. SSgt Martinez was accused of murdering two officers with a claymore mine and faced a possible death sentence.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now on to the next court-martial for Martinez for stealing supplies. Can't imagine he'll get more than time-served, though. What an embarrassment for the prosecution. A career-ender for sure.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:14 were you there for the CM? How is an NG a career ender? Are prosecutors now using convictions as job security? Interesting how that perspective is. If prosecutors always gain a conviction (I never say win or lose, it is not a game) then the cards are always stacked against the accused. If the prosecution results in an NG then the prosecutor is a bafoon. UNless you know something about the inner workings of this SJA shop and particulars about how this prosecutor will be affected by the NG I suggest snarky comments be left out.

DB Cooper said...

Wow. All that time and $$ spent for a capital prosecution, and they could not even get a conviction, let alone the death penalty. One has to wonder why the case was referral capital anyway. If you are going to dedicate the necessary time and resources to a capital prosecution in the military justice system, you had better make sure your evidence of guilt is nearly unassailable, i.e., as in Akbar.

I would never fault the government for referring a shaky murder case as non-capital, but the decision to go full tilt with a capital referral in Martinez was unwise.

Go ahead, flame away about “Monday-morning-quarterbacking” and “hindsight being 20/20.” But if the case was this vulnerable to an acquittal, someone in the SJA shop should have figured that out and advised the GCMCA appropriately when it came time to refer the case capital.

I wonder how this will affect the capital case against MSG Hennis, a Fort Bragg case with equally thin evidence.

Mike "No Man" Navarre said...

Do tell DB, MSG Hennis, don't know that one, do "we" Gents?

Anonymous said...

I wonder who Anon at 9:14 is?

"A career-ender for sure."

What a narcissitic comment. So military justice is not about applying military law to the facts at hand...its about the lawyers?

I often wonder about how reliable one's professional "reputation" can be in the world of military justice when so often composed by people with this kind of scorecard.

I have a hypothesis: There are enough checks-and-balances in the military justice system that 90% of charges will be "won" or "lost" by any lawyer within the bell curve of competency.

The remaining 10% of the charges are sufficiently close so that the more intelligent, experienced, agressive or innovative lawyer can make a difference.

Of course, DB's valid comment goes more to the pre-trial advice part of the analysis. (Sun Tsu, the war is won before the battle)

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised this fiasco of a trial happened in the Army. Normally, they have their house in order compared to the other services that typically flail around with big cases.

DB,
Once again, you are spot on.

Dwight Sullivan said...

2254, I can't tell if you're being sarcastic about the Army's supposed prowess in handling "big cases" -- but I can only hope that you are. Does the phrase, "United States v. Kreutzer," for example, ring bell?

Anonymous said...

10:52,

Get your head out of your ass. You really don't think prosecutors should be judged by convictions, or DC's judged by acquittals. I sure as hell do. This is a meritocracy, baby. At least it's supposed to be. We certainly should account for ethics, discretion, etc., but at the end of the day, if a case gets referred, your job as a prosecutor is to get the W. And, more specifically, if a case gets referred capital, your job is to get a death sentence. Add to that the buffoonery exhibited by the TC in this case (reprimanded by the judge for laughing during the trial) and you get: EPIC FAIL!

Anonymous said...

Can someone with some real insight in this case give us some scoop? What the heck happened here?

Biff (not legrand) said...

Anon 2300,

Either you've never been a prosecutor, or you've been an unethical one. It is clear beyond dispute that a prosecutor's duty is to seek justice, not to seek victory. If justice is an acquittal, then the prosecutor has done his or her job. It makes no difference whether it's the military or civilian justice system.

As a former civilian and military prosecutor, I saw cases that ended in acquittal and even a few where we dismissed the charges before submitting the matter to the jury because new exculpatory evidence had been discovered. Not once was it suggested that someone had fallen short or done a poor job. Indeed, in many of those cases, the office celebrated the fact that justice had been served.

Mike "No Man" Navarre said...

Biff:

Either Jerry Garcia was your chief trial counsel or you were using hyperbole. I was a TC. In most cases I took to trial or others in our office took to trial, the TC believed in the accused's guilt-and Chief TC usually believed in it even more strongly because they only saw the good facts. When there was an acquittal there were usually post mortem sessions discussing what went wrong (and what went right). Your statement that, "Not once was it suggested that someone had fallen short or done a poor job. Indeed, in many of those cases, the office celebrated the fact that justice had been served," is an over statement where none is needed. Are the TC and his bosses unhappy they lost, yes, many times they are. Sometimes are cases lost that should be lost? Sure. But in neither case does it mean there is a problem with the system or prosecutors. You live and learn, mistakes get made in trial by both sides. Usually the facts win, but sometimes you don't have the facts to win.

I honestly have a massive head cold and can't figure out where I wanted to end this comment . . . here is good.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just wow.

Jeff Stephens said...

Counsel,

I've been a TC, DC, civilian prosecutor, appellate defense counsel, and appellate government counsel. I've got to say that regardless of your opinions on military justice, this discussion is kind of embarrassing. Not one piece of analysis on the case itself, but just whining about whether a trial counsel is evaluated on his ability to secure a conviction. Can we please get back to any opinions about THIS CASE?

Cloudesley Shovell said...

If, as many seem to assume, SSgt Martinez was the killer and should have been found guilty, karma will catch up with him eventually.

As evidence: OJ Simpson just sentenced to 15+ years for robbery in Las Vegas, and no bail pending appeal.

Anonymous said...

I have factual insight, having talked at length with one of the DC's over the course of the last 2 years, and also just got off of the phone with someone not on the Defense who sat through most of the trial.

From the time of the Article 32, the Defense complained of a myopic CID investigation - Martinez had motive, had made threats, etc., so rather than continue investigating to exclude all other potential suspects [and there was at least one other "prime" one], they focused on "proving" Martinez's guilt.

That opened up the proverbial door that the Defense drove through, time and time again and the utter lack of physical evidence to link Martinez to the crime scene was also problematic.

I agree with DB. The Defense was never any secret in this case, so someone in the SJA's hierarchy should have given the case a good "scrub" before giving the CA "advice" on the capital referral. But, even that's probably a tough call - if you think Martinez is the culprit, then with 2 dead officers, under the circumstances, "capital" probably flows naturally.

The SJA's pretrial Advice, would in retrospect, make good reading.

The person that I just spoke with [a non JAG], indicated that he felt that the MJ's continual chastisement of the TC seriously hurt the government's credibility - yes, an opinion, but considering what was publicly reported, probably reasonable.

As to the Hennis case:

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2008/01/army_hennis_080120w/

But, I'm not sure of the status - I know the Defense was arguing constitutional former jeopardy, and don't know if they took a writ or not. But, Hennis was acquitted in his second State trial - hopefully the Army has new evidence.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - the link got cut off -here's the end of it. Or google "Army Times" "Hennis" "Fort Bragg"

army_hennis_080120w/

Bridget Wilson said...

Or maybe this is just confirmation of either 1.) you never know what a panel (or jury) will do or 2) maybe the guy was NG based on the evidence before the court.

John O'Connor said...

Anon 1548:

I have no particular insight into the facts of the Martinez case, but I have always thought that members often take their cues from how the MJ is reacting to each counsel. As a TC, I tried not to object unless I was pretty sure I would be sustained, and was careful not to let any evidence come before the members that would cause the judge to rebuke me in front of the members (i.e., don't push the envelope too far in front of the members). If I wanted to put in evidence that I knew would be objected to, and would possibly be prejudicial if the obejction were sustained, I would ask for a 39(a) and tell the judge what I was intending to do. The TC needs to wear the white hat. Some prosecutors take the short view of trying to win every battle, and trying to get in every piece of evidence, and end up screwing the case up at trial or on appeal.

Ivo of Kermartin said...

JTO has a point. It can not help the TC with the members when he is laughing.

biff (not legrand) said...

Hey No Man,

Actually Mary Jo White was the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan at the time I was there, and Jerry Garcia was long dead.

Since you never worked at the USAOSDNY, you cannot possibly speak intelligently about my experiences.

As for your military experiences, I'm sorry they didn't rise to the level of mine at NLSO Norfolk. Again, you weren't there, so don't cast aspersions about things you don't know.

No hard feelings; I'll chalk it up to your head cold.