Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Day 2 of Ehren Watada's court-martial
The judge trying the first U.S. officer court-martialed for refusing to ship out for Iraq barred several experts in international and constitutional law from testifying about the legality of the war.
First Lt. Ehren Watada, 28, of Honolulu, is charged with missing movement for refusing to ship out with his unit. He also faces charges of conduct unbecoming an officer for accusing the Army of war crimes and denouncing the administration for conducting an "illegal war" founded on "lies."
As his court-martial began, military judge Lt. Col. John Head refused to allow almost all defense witnesses to take the stand. Head previously ruled that Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz, could not debate the legality of the Iraq war in court.
If convicted, Watada could receive four years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. He has requested that his case be heard by a military panel of officers, the equivalent of a jury.
The defense and prosecution questioned a pool of 10 officers. Seven were ultimately chosen to sit on the jury.
Joan notes the above, from The Honolulu Advertiser's "Court-martial judge forbids law experts." We're starting with it because note who is refused -- experts. Some of the press, however, is apparently written by the Scooter Libby defense team which is why experts in various fields are summed up as "Bush critics." It was a bit like the nonsense the Scooter defense team tried to pull where no one who didn't love them some Bully Boy could sit on the jury to determine whether or not Scooter lied to investigators. Now the polling repeatedly shows that only a small majority of Americans love them some Bully Boy these days. So it's real interesting to read the press on this and find out that experts in various fields can be reduced to "Bush critics." Possibly, they'll soon begin reducing the majority of Americans to "Bush critics"?
From Melanthia Mitchell's "Watada to take stand in court-martial" (AP):
As the court-martial got underway Monday, military judge Lt. Col. John Head excluded virtually all the planned defense witnesses. Head previously ruled that Watada’s attorney, Eric Seitz, could not debate the legality of the Iraq war in court.
Seitz said he planned to call Watada and a character witness, an Army captain who has known Watada for about two years. The captain has been brought back from service in Iraq to testify.
The court-martial was to resume today.
And it's currently expected to run through Thursday. The article that follows notes a crowd of 400, I think it's bit larger but, as Kat noted, it needs to be more. From Adam Lynn and Mike Archbold's "Watada case draws crowds Supporters rally but say officer will go to jail" (The News Tribune):
Army prosecutors indicated during what amounts to jury selection Monday that they'll cast Watada's conduct as detrimental to unit cohesion and troop morale.
They asked the officers who will sit in judgment of Watada whether a soldier should obey orders from the legislative and executive branches of government without regard to personal beliefs and whether an officer's refusal to deploy with the unit he leads hurts combat effectiveness.
Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz of Honolulu, countered by asking whether they thought officers had the right to publicly criticize the government and should ever be allowed to miss a military deployment.
Col. Carl Chappel, who later was picked to sit on the panel, said he’d be willing to listen to the reasons an officer missed a deployment.
But, "they better have a pretty good reason for not doing so," Chappel said.
Watada asked for a panel of officers to determine his fate.
From a pool of 10 individuals, both sides settled on Chappel, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bryan, Maj. Patrick Wright and Capts. Angela Gentry, Greg Reger, Nichole White and Larry Dean.
Army prosecutors and Watada's attorney took turns questioning the pool before selecting the seven.
All the pool members said they'd heard of the case but that they didn't have any preconceived notions about Watada's guilt or innocence.
From Hal Bernton's "Watada lawyer rebukes judge" (Seattle Times):
Defense counsels hope Watada can gain the respect of the seven-officer military panel sworn in Monday and persuade the officers to reject an extended prison sentence of up to four years.
"The critical thing is that he be treated as someone who is principled," Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian defense counsel, said late Monday at a news conference. "Someone who is principled and has taken a stand. Not someone who should be treated as a criminal."
Monday, Seitz was a combative, sometimes defiant, presence in the courtroom as he rebuked the military judge, Lt. Col. John Head, for his rulings to restrict the scope of the trial.
"I think it is an atrocity that our witnesses are being handled in this manner," Seitz said after Head ruled that most of the proposed defense witnesses were irrelevant to the issues at hand.
Demonstrations and rallies are taking place across the country. Joan notes Mary Adamski's "Isle demonstrators back GI's refusal"( Honolulu Star-Bulletin):
About 40 people displayed their support for Army Lt. Ehren Watada yesterday outside the Prince Kuhio Federal Building.
And their signs mirrored the sentiments of demonstrators outside Fort Shafter Army headquarters and near Fort Lewis, Wash., where his court-martial began yesterday.
There was a hometown feel to the Honolulu "Mahalo Peace Vigil," where some sign-holders said they know the Kalani High School graduate who faces prison for refusing to deploy to Iraq with his unit.
"Ehren did an Eagle Scout community project at our Kaimuki neighborhood park in the early '90s," said Albert Rich, now a Big Island resident. "I was impressed with him then, and I'm even more impressed with him now."
Rich held one corner of a banner proclaiming, "Thank you Lt. Watada." A few pau hana commuters honked horns in support, and an occasional dissenting shout was heard from passing vehicles.
"I think he's galvanized a lot of people," said Joan Rich, of Honolulu, holding the other banner corner. "He's very brave." She said she and her ex-husband were drawn to demonstrate because of their earlier encounters, when Watada helped develop a view lookout at Mauumae Park on 16th Avenue.
Watada photo by Jeff Paterson of Not In Our Name and available for public use at this page of the ThankYouLt. site. The photo is of Ehren Watada speaking at the Veterans for Peace conference in August. KPFA's The Morning Show should have a report during the newsbreaks this morning (from Aaron Glantz). Courage to Resist has information on the demonstrations across the country and more.
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