Soldier's Court-Martial Ends in Mistrial (for now)

February 7th, 2007  

Topic: Soldier's Court-Martial Ends in Mistrial (for now)

Judge in Court Martial of Army Lieutenant Who Refused to Deploy to Iraq Declares Mistrial


FORT LEWIS, Wash. Feb 7, 2007 (AP) The judge overseeing the court martial of an Army lieutenant who refused to deploy to Iraq declared a mistrial Wednesday, saying the soldier did not fully understand a document he signed admitting to elements of the charges.
Military judge Lt. Col. John Head announced the decision after 1st Lt. Ehren Watada said he never intended to admit he had a duty to go to Iraq with his fellow soldiers one element of the crime of missing troop movement. Head set a March 12 date for a new trial and dismissed the jurors.
Last month, Watada signed a 12-page stipulation of fact in which he acknowledged he did not go to Iraq with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, last June. He also acknowledged making public statements criticizing the Iraq war, which he believes to be illegal.
In exchange, prosecutors dropped two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer charges against him, and agreed to proceed to trial on the remaining charges: missing movement for his refusal to deploy last June and two other allegations of conduct unbecoming an officer for comments made about the case.
To prove a charge of missing movement, the prosecutors need to show that Watada did not report when he had a duty to do so. The disagreement that prompted the mistrial was about whether Watada admitted missing troop movement and having a duty to report, or only missing troop movement.
"I see there is an inconsistency in the stipulation of fact," the judge said Wednesday. "I don't know how I can accept (it) as we stand here now."
Because much of the Army's evidence was laid out in the document, rejecting it would hurt its case, Head acknowledged. He granted the prosecutors' request for a mistrial, which Watada's lawyer opposed.
Watada, 28, of Honolulu, was expected to testify in his own defense Wednesday until Head and attorneys met in a closed meeting for much of the morning.
In their opening statements Tuesday, prosecutors said Watada abandoned his soldiers and brought disgrace upon himself and the service by accusing the Army of war crimes and denouncing the Bush administration for conducting an illegal war founded on lies.

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