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Will the President Set Right a Ten-Year Old Injustice?

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The following headline appeared in the New York Times today:

Trump May Be Preparing Pardons for Servicemen Accused of War Crimes

My family and I have been praying for a headline like this for over ten years.

Before I tell this story I will disclose my personal interest. My father met his best friend Darryl Hatley over seventy years ago. These two men raised their families in Boyd, Texas (population 700) where I grew up. “Uncle Darryl” and his family were more than our friends. They were family. In 1968 Darryl’s son John was born within a week of my little sister, so I have known John literally all of his life. While our paths separated years ago as he pursued his career in the Army and I pursued mine in the law, I have always kept up with John and his family. And now I pick up the story.

John excelled in the Army. He became an Airborne Ranger, was promoted to first sergeant and received numerous awards, including two Bronze Stars and an Army Commendation for Valor. He was ultimately inducted into the Audie Murphy Club, an exclusive organization for the best of the best of the Army’s NCOs.

All of that changed in 2009 when he was put on trial and convicted of trumped up charges of a murder for which there was absolutely zero evidence. C. J. Oakes summarizes this travesty of justice in this article.

Hatley’s plight began during a climate of “punishing US soldiers” (e.g. the “Leavenworth 10”) as a reaction to political opposition to the American presence in the Middle East and the accusations of inhumane treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay at the hands of the US Army. In the wake of the backlash, the Army upper echelon engaged in an effort to “prove” that they held US soldiers to high standards of engagement and accountability for their actions. 

Hatley was convicted solely on the accusation of a soldier, Jesse Cunningham, whom he was in the process of bringing charges against, and the coerced and coached testimony of a handful of his men who were threatened with life in prison and never seeing their families again, and who were each being told the others were pointing the finger at them.  With a court martial-conviction rate of almost 98%, these few accused soldiers – with the exception of Hatley – were not willing to take the chance to fight for the truth.

Sometime during March or April of 2007, a firefight occurred between First Sergeant Hatley’s unit and a group of Iraqi fighters. Hatley and his men chased the insurgents to a house about four blocks away from the initial firefight. The house was occupied by women and children who said they were the men’s wives and children. The men were taken into custody and a large cache of weapons and ammunition was recovered.  However, as per the stringent policies pertaining to detaining enemy combatants, there was not enough evidence to detain the insurgents. This was a routine scenario for American soldiers, and First Sergeant Hatley made the decision to take the five detained prisoners to the outskirts of their sector and release them, which, according to Hatley, they did without incident. 

Ten months after this event, Cunningham was facing two charges of striking a fellow NCO and one charge of threatening an officer with great bodily harm. Cunningham asked his attorney to take an offer of a deal to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Army offering information on a homicide in exchange for immunity. Immunity was denied, but the attorney had already given CID Cunningham’s statement.

There was not a single shred of physical or forensic evidence against Hatley or his co-accused, Sergeant First Class Joseph P. Mayo and Sergeant Michael Leahy. A seven-man Army diving team searched the canal where Cunningham said four men were executed and the bodies were supposedly dumped. They found nothing.

According to CID, no bodies, no items of clothing, no personal belongings, no bone fragments, no bullets, or no casings were found. CID had one of the soldiers take them to the house where the five enemy fighters had been apprehended to interview the family members of the supposed victims. All of them said they knew of no one missing or dead. No names were obtained. Further, CID interviewed neighbors from the surrounding areas who said no one was missing from the neighborhood. 

I urge you to read the linked story for the whole sordid tale. To summarize, John was convicted of murder on the basis of tainted and coerced testimony of a man up on charges. There was ZERO forensic evidence. There were no bodies. No one was reported missing, much less dead. No complaint was ever filed by any Iraqi citizen. The supposed victims were never even named.

John was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on the basis of this flimsy non-existent evidence. He has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence from the very first and says he will spend the rest of his life in prison before he admits to a crime he did not commit.

John’s family and mine (especially my sister) have worked countless hours over the years on appeals and pleas for pardons. And that is why I was thrilled to read the linked New York Times story that the President is considering pardons for several men who have been railroaded by the military system of “justice.” We hope and pray that John is on that list.

Please join me, my family, and John’s family as we continue to pray that justice might finally prevail.

14 Replies to “Will the President Set Right a Ten-Year Old Injustice?

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Sad, and revealing.

  2. 2
    News says:

    Before an election is a good time to set injustices right.

    Straw in the wind? There are many opinions about Lord Conrad (“Tubby”) Black, a Canadian news mogul who ended up in federal prison in the United States – and no one could quite figure out why. The US president has just pardoned him. Compatriot Mark Steyn who lives in New Hampshire, offers:

    Mark Steyn: Smuggling Conrad Black over the border was always my Plan B
    I’d advised Lord Black to climb into the back of my pick-up, I’d throw a tarp over him and drive …
    https://nationalpost.com/opinion/mark-steyn-smuggling-conrad-black-over-the-border-was-always-my-plan-b

    But Mark, Mark, the raging Woke are everywhere here in Canada too. In any venue they dominate, politics beats law, and reality and math, and anything at all.

    Media mogul? In Canada today, the Liberals (majority government) are bailing out via the tax system media they “trust” because people aren’t paying attention to them anymore. Between that and censorship exercised by Big Social Media, one big challenge will just be finding out what is going on. Something like Barry describes could happen to someone you know and you would get nothing but elaborate disinformation from media, never mind officials.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    When justice is no longer a framing object of law . . . the door to nihilistic will to power — might makes ‘right’ — lies open.

  4. 4
    Brother Brian says:

    News@2, Conrad Black was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice. I don’t know enough about the fraud charge to comment but he was caught on video removing boxes of files from his office in the middle of the night before a police search warrant was enforced. Maybe it is standard practice for extremely rich people to move boxes in the middle of the night from an office. And then, last year he writes a book praising Trump, followed shortly by Trump pardoning him.

  5. 5
    Belfast says:

    BB,
    Yes, it is the kiss of death to praise Trump. I can see why you don’t.

  6. 6
    News says:

    Brother Brian at 4 and Belfast at 5: I read a portion of Black’s book, excerpted in one of his newspapers. My impression is that he was not so much interested in praising Trump as in understanding what happened. We all were. The declining legacy media were whacked upside downsey when he won – which just shows who you needn’t necessarily pay a lot of attention to in order to understand what is happening. But then we have to find out for ourselves.

  7. 7
    Seversky says:

    In my view, pardons should only be applied to demonstrable miscarriages of justice. It should not be for getting your Boss Hogg wannabe cronies out of trouble when they’ve finally been caught dead-to-rights.

    Verse:
    Major Rufus Cobb : Paragraph: If we are ever to have law and order in the West, the first thing we gotta do is take out all the lawyers and shoot ’em down like dogs.

  8. 8
    Brother Brian says:

    There is argument over whether or not pardons are restricted to people who admit their guilt. I have no problems with granting pardons to people who were convicted under a rule of law that has since changed. For example, convictions against blacks who were breaking the law when interracial marriage was illegal. Or convictions against people who violated homosexuality laws when they were in place. Alan Turing’s pardons comes to mind.

    But I have a concern with pardons granted for convictions that would still be a crime today, and for which the person has not admitted guilt. Why would the President think that he is better qualified to judge guilt than a court?

  9. 9
    PaV says:

    Our wonderful intelligence services protecting our country! They are very self-serving, and devious and dishonest. ( That is, the leadership and the covert power players–though not all: thank you Mike Rogers.)

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    BB, methinks thy speech bewrayeth thee. KF

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, why was this man convicted on such absence of evidence? Is there not a place for overturning a conviction that wants adequate evidence of guilt? Or, what are we missing? KF

  12. 12
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF, consider this from the linked article:

    Hatley’s plight began during a climate of “punishing US soldiers” (e.g. the “Leavenworth 10”) as a reaction to political opposition to the American presence in the Middle East and the accusations of inhumane treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay at the hands of the US Army. In the wake of the backlash, the Army upper echelon engaged in an effort to “prove” that they held US soldiers to high standards of engagement and accountability for their actions.

    In my view, John was sacrificed on the alter of political expedience. After the Guantanamo Bay fiasco, the President demanded that the Army nail some hides to the wall to prove that America is tough on war crime. The Army, not having any actual war criminal hides to nail up, instead decided to nail up some faux war criminal hides.
    And no, the “Code of Military Justice” is a farce. It allows the Army to trump up charges, try and convict, almost anyone. The procedural safeguards that are taken for granted in civilian courts are non-existent in the Army.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, that is very sad. It seems there is need for a class action, constitutional law suit that at minumum sets up natural justice based tribunals with responsible safeguards including proper appeals. And surely, there must be protections against kangaroo courts ruling to destroy lives without adequate evidence. On the part of a murder charge, surely there must be a minimum criterion of warrant that wrongful death occurred, death by design without reasonable defence. Then, we may proceed to suspects, per the motive, means, opportunity triad. And yes, this is a matter of the importance of signs warranting a design inference. KF

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, is this a similar case? KF

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