Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Maynulet Case Fascinating Facts

Today's CAAF grant in United States v. Maynulet, __ M.J. ___, No. 09-0073/AR (C.A.A.F. June 1, 2009), is the latest chapter in what seems like a fascinating case. The case involves Army Captain Roselio Maynulet and an alleged unlawful killing of an Iraqi wounded during a firefight with US forces in Kufa, Iraq. As Stars and Stripes reported, here, Capt. Maynulet's case involved complex questions of conduct in "battle." This succinct summary of the case is courtesy of a thesis written by Maj. Mynda Ohman, see thesis here at page 124:

Captain Rogelio Maynulet was charged with murder and dereliction of duty for shooting an Iraqi on May 21, 2004. At the Article 32 pretrial hearing, witnesses testified that the man was badly wounded and missing part of his skull after a firefight and that CPT Maynulet told a fellow officer that he shot the man out of compassion. After the pretrial hearing, the division commander decided not to go forward with the murder charge and instead referred the charge to trial as assault with intent to commit murder. At the court-martial that began in late March 2005, CPT Maynulet was convicted of the lesser offense of assault with intent to commit voluntary manslaughter; facing a maximum of ten years of imprisonment, he was sentenced to a dismissal from the U.S. Army.

The Iraqi was rumored to be the driver for Muqtada al-Sadr, thus why the case garnered immediate attention.

Another interesting tidbit is that the case may never have come to the attention of the convening authority, but for video of the killing captured by an unmanned aerial droone. See S&S report here. The case was covered extensively in 2005 when the verdict was handed down, though the appeal to ACCA received little attention (I can't even find it on ACCA's website).

If anyone has the opinion or petition briefs please email them to us at noman@caaflog.com. We'd like to see what the mistake of law defense would have been and if it involved interpretation of ROE or something cool like that--this CBS report seems to suggest such an argument by the defense.

Part of the story of the case is the timing, March 2005. If anyone can tell us the other parallel story at that time that makes the case even more interesting you'll get . . . a big ata boy.


Anonymous said...

The Army CCA summarily affirmed this case.

I believe Maynulet claimed that he shot a badly wounded Iraqi to relieve his suffering. He allegedly believed this was authorized under the Law of War as explained to him in pre-deployment briefings - he remembered something about easing suffering and humane treatment. Appellant believed the wounded Iraqi was suffering, his medic had told him that the wounded man would not last another 15 minutes, and he decided to euthanize him as a humanitarian gesture. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Mercy killing. Seems understandable, even though not lawful under the LOW. The members seemed to understand the dilemma - they only dismissed Maynulet from the service - no other punishment was imposed.

Anonymous said...

I predict CAAF will give Maynulet a medal - or at least overturn his conviction for the judge's failure to instruct on mistake of law.

Mike "No Man" Navarre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike "No Man" Navarre said...

For all those law and order types that are about to wax on in comments about mercy killings I will fill in my own blank, the Terry Schiavo case was the topic du jour in Feb/Mar 2005.

Southern Defense Attorney said...

I think that this is an example of the military justice system gone a bit too far. There are some cases that are clearly egregious enough that a court martial is necessary (see Green et al) and there are others where there is a grey area.

I know I know, the panel was probably made up of combat vets who no doubt went through the same experience (maybe), but seriously, if the guy's intention was mercy, the "victim" had his head blown nearly off, I can't say that I'd fault him

TheCat said...

I would like to read the facts of the case, it sounds like an interesting debate and quite possibly a sad situation.

As I am sure No Man will attest to, I am a very law and order minded individual. But that being said, before I became a prosecutor, I was a defense attorney, and I believe my time as a defense attorney has made me a better prosecutor.

Taking the facts as have been reported here (so that means I could be wrong factually), assuming this is the situation that the enemy was severely wounded with an injury that not only knock him out of the fight, but also was far more likely than not going to kill him and he was only laying there suffering while waiting to die, I can't help but have sympathy for that situation.

I have the fortune of saying I don't know what it is like to have killed another man. I hope I never know that. Despite the war we are in, or any war, I can't imagine it is a nice feeling to know you have killed man, despite it being justified. Please do not take that comment the wrong way, I believe our guys are doing the right thing when they engage and kill al Qaeda or the Taliban, these are ruthless people. But I still can't imagine that it does not in some way affect you when you learn you have killed someone. And to sit there and watch someone in excruciating suffering from a wound that will almost, in time, kill him, must also not be a pleasant experience.

On the flip side, he did kill a man in violation of the LOW. Do we even know if the enemy wanted to be finished off like that? There is also something to be said that we are not dogs or horses, we do not euthanize ourselves. And there is the issue with reciprocity (no not with al Qaeda or the Taliban, obviously). If we set the precedent that it is okay for our guys to finish off the wounded enemy in this fashion, can the enemy do the same to our guys? Do we want that?

Southern Defense Attorney brings up a good point that the members may have been combat vets who either have been in a similar situation, or at least know the situation, yet they still voted to convict him of a serious offense. Assault with intent to commit voluntary manslaughter is a serious offense to have on your record for the rest of your life, I don't care that he only got a dismissal. And lets not kid ourselves, this may have been a person who was proud to be an officer and to have a dismissal is not a light punishment either. That tells me that there may have been more to the story than just the mercy killing aspect.

Not only would I not want to be a member on that case, as a prosecutor myself, I am not sure I would want to have to figure out whether to prosecute him or not and on what charges.

I do remember when I went through the LOW course at the Army JAG school we debated this and it was clear from the school's POV that you cannot do a mercy killing.

I don't know, touch case.

Anonymous said...

I'd say the Cat is on the fence.

Anonymous said...

To quell some of the speculation, here are some additional facts from someone who was there..

1) Cat.. in regards to setting a precedence for the enemy to follow, are you kidding me? The enemy would sooner convert to Christianity and sing the praises of George Bush before giving American Soldiers any type of reprieve or treatment in line with the Geneva Conventions. Have you not been witness to the beheadings on TV or the Blackwater guys they burned and strung up from a bridge in Fallujah. Make no mistake, these guys are not nice and share no empathy with the US.

2) This video has been classified as secret from day one, so it has never been released to the news media, the public and certainly not to the mainstream Arab media. This was a classified UAV flying reconnaissance over the mission, not some eye in the sky - Big Brother is watching.

3) He did kill a man.. but how can you tell me it was in violation of the Law of Land Warfare, AS IT WAS briefed to his unit by his Brigade Counsel. If his counsel stated that humane and merciful treatment must be made to a wounded enemy combatant, then that makes it a judgement call to the on scene commander, in this case Maynulet. Too often, the Army allows for decision-making on the scene, then reprimands the commander for making a difficult decision in real-time after the higher echelons have had ample time to scrutinize his actions. Monday Morning Generals are not what we need to exercise this war..

4) The court martial panel, as suggested by Southern Defense, was in fact not made up of combat vets, but a smattering of field grades yet to deploy. Bear in mind that this was the first year of Iraq, so many units were yet to deploy. A few officers on the board had seen action during Desert Storm, but that was a very different fight under vastly different circumstances.

I will get off my soapbox, but wanted to clarify a few points for the general public. I think in this day and age, the Army is reaping what it sows by having so many highly talented officers leave the service after seeing so many of their peers put through the ringer for "questionable" combat decisions. I understand the black and white issues of the Law of War, but having been there myself, I found it to be one hazy shade of grey.

It is a shame that this ended a promising career, but we need to realize on a broader spectrum that we cannot continue to undermine the Soldier in the field for decisons made in the heat of battle. To do so will ensure we become an Army paralyzed by fear and unwilling to make decisions until directed by a higher authority. And that is something we can truly not afford.. Something to ponder..

Renegade 5