Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bonis nocet qui malis parcit

Phillip's government marker was installed at his grave this week. "Bonis nocet qui malis parcit — He harms the good who spares the evil."

Let that be the message to the Army jurors who acquitted Phillip's murderer—and to anyone who seeks to avoid a tragedy such as Phillip's needless, preventable, and unpunished murder in their own lives.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Real Betrayal

What if someone told you that you had betrayed your late husband on the grounds that you found fault with the system of justice that acquitted your husband’s murderer? That is precisely what Tony Skala has accused Siobhan of in regards to her late husband Phillip via a comment Skala left on Siobhan’s blog earlier this week.

According to Skala, 

[Y]our husband donned a uniform to protect certain values we deem important and label American. A portion of which is the American Justice system. And this system is based on a set of rules we universally accept. And those rules state to convict a person of a charge there must be min level of proof, and that was not done in this case. I am not sure if Mr. Martinez is innocent or not. But he was aquitted (sic) in our system of courts, and these courts derive their power from folks like your husband, and I putting on a uniform and saying we will lay our lives down to defend this system. That must be respected. The system must be respected for it to work. It is the only reason the system remains powerful.
Skala concludes,

So I am not sure looking at the system we entrust to render justice with distain (sic) and doubt and saying we want to invalidate it because it gave us a judgment we don't like honors your husbands (sic) service to his country. Invalidating that system t (sic) in-validates (sic) your husbands (sic) service and my service at the same time.

When you strip away the stunning gall of an individual who believes that he is in a position to lecture Siobhan on any issue regarding her late husband, you are left with the argument that our American system of military justice is simply above reproach, and that any attempt to call out errors actually weakens the system. Here, reform is the enemy of justice. Needless to say, I disagree.

In the Martinez case, I have read through the trial record and examined the evidence presented. Through this review, I have reached the personal conclusion that Staff Sergeant Martinez murdered Siobhan’s late husband and 1LT Allen and that the government proved as much at trial. In this light, the pertinent question is why did the court nevertheless acquit Staff Sergeant Martinez of murder.

Through my examination of the case, I see several issues that may have contributed to what I see as Staff Sergeant Martinez’s unjust acquittal. 

  • I see an issue in how the members of a court-martial are selected and subsequently vetted for bias, particularly in death penalty-eligible cases and particularly when some selectees are opposed to capital punishment.
  • I see an issue in how the members of a court-martial are instructed in the law prior to their deliberations and the clarity of their instructions.
  • I see an issue in how jury members in a strict, hierarchically-based organization must somehow put aside their rank structure and deliberate as equal peers.
  • And I see an issue in the possible conflicts of interest that arise when the military disciplines itself when defects in its own culture are an issue in a case.

At root, I see several issues surrounding Martinez’s acquittal that merit close examination and reform, if only to prevent future injustice. In the face of Phillip’s death, those who treasured him or empathize with the plight of his survivors have a natural interest in achieving a larger justice. Nevertheless, Skala would prefer that Siobhan—and by extension, me and anyone else with an interest in the case—silence ourselves and respect the system.

Based upon what? Skala’s intimate knowledge of the evidence in the case? His understanding of the trial? His understanding of the law? No. Just Skala’s claim that “the system must be respected in order for it to work.”

I’ll say this in answer: I find it cowardly and detestable to sit on one’s hands when another human being is murdered and our courts allow the killer to get away with it. If there is an error within the system, good and just people must repair that error, lest the system continue producing erroneous results. In this nation, we have the freedom to petition our government and the freedom to work to amend our laws. This is the system that soldiers like Phillip dedicated themselves to protect. Shame on us if we do not use that system to make our nation better and address injustice when it occurs.

8/29: minor edits for clarity.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Ten Years Later, the Haunting Murder of Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen

Ten years ago this week, Army Captain Phillip Esposito, of Suffern, New York, was killed while serving with the 42nd Infantry “Rainbow” Division in Iraq. Killed alongside him was First Lieutenant Louis Allen, of Milford, Pennsylvania.

Staff Sergeant Alberto B. Martinez
Neither soldier died fighting a foreign enemy or by accident. Instead, according to military prosecutors, the two were deliberately murdered by Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, a soldier under Esposito’s command. Martinez allegedly detonated a wire-activated landmine in Esposito’s office window and then threw several grenades, all to cover his actions under the guise of an insurgent attack. According to prosecutors, Martinez’s motive was little more than pecuniary: after months of conflict, rather than accept Esposito firing Martinez from his position after Martinez lost accountability for sensitive military equipment, Martinez simply murdered Esposito and Allen, Martinez’s would-be replacement. In 2008, an Army court-martial tried Martinez for two counts of murder. After a two month trial, a panel of fourteen Army soldiers acquitted Martinez of all charges, apparently one vote shy of the two-thirds necessary to secure a conviction. During that trial, I watched Esposito’s daughter, Madeline, then age 5, in Northern Virginia, while Esposito’s widow, Siobhan, attended the proceedings at Fort Bragg.

In the time since Martinez’s acquittal, I have studied his trial in detail. I have read thorough the trial transcript, reviewed the evidence generated by the case, interviewed key witnesses and trial participants, and analyzed the laws in play. My study has led me to the following conclusions: first, that Esposito and Allen’s murders were an utterly needless and preventable product of an undisciplined culture that permeated the 42nd Infantry and set the stage for murder, second, that laws governing Martinez’s court-martial slanted the trial toward an unfair result and have the potential to do so again, and third, that the Army has yet to engage in the soul-searching necessary to prevent similar tragedies in its future.

A Needless and Preventable Death

If the standard that one walks by is the standard that one accepts, evidence shows that in 2004 and 2005, soldiers in the 42nd Infantry Division were perfectly willing to walk by Alberto Martinez’s repeated expressions of contempt and threats made against his commanding officer. According to testimony at Martinez’s trial, Martinez made literally hundreds of threats against Esposito—all behind Esposito’s back, but in front of other soldiers and Army leaders. At trial, some soldiers testified that they almost elected to do something about these threats, with one officer testifying that he informed Esposito that Esposito needed to have a “heart to heart” talk with Martinez, but the record indicates no soldier actually informed Esposito that Martinez had verbally threatened him.

Nevertheless, had soldiers properly responded to Martinez’s threats under long-established standards of military discipline, I believe these soldiers would have likely stopped Martinez before his actions rose to the level of murder. In my view, the inaction of these soldiers helped set the stage for Esposito and Allen’s deaths.

In reviewing Esposito’s personnel file and fitness reports, I found an officer uniquely praised by his superiors. One reviewer found Esposito a “magnificent performer” who “makes everything he does look easy” and remarked that Esposito possessed a drive and maturity “well beyond his years.” Another reviewer found Esposito the best out of the twenty-six lieutenants that he rated and thought that Esposito would “excel in any position where capability and proven performance are necessary for success.” Yet another wrote that Esposito was the best lieutenant in his battalion and “the best S1 my Command Sergeant Major and I have seen in a combined thirty-nine years of service.” Even as a Captain, with less than a year to live, Esposito’s rating superior found him as the type of leader who “puts the good of the soldier always in the forefront” while “providing the catalyst for his unit to do the same.”

In contrast, trial records indicate that Martinez thought Esposito a “Little Mussolini,” a “lunch money victim,” and a “fucking asshole,” and with no one seemingly disagreeing enough to compel Martinez to cease with his words of contempt.

I conclude that when Esposito took command as the 42nd Infantry Division, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Commander, he faced a culture governed more by clique than by professional military standard, and he was the unwelcome outsider. Especially brought in by division leaders to transform his unit out of garrison and prepare it for battle, Esposito’s by-the-book style harshly grated upon the reservists he was tasked to lead.

Moreover, Esposito wasn’t “one of the cool kids.” In my discussions with those who knew him, I repeatedly heard Esposito described as “bookish” and “nerdy” (yet at the same time, incredibly athletic and fit). I also repeatedly heard Esposito described as earnest, hardworking and dedicated—but clearly not “one of the boys.” I was particularly struck by how those around him reported to me that Esposito repeatedly downplayed his background as a West Point graduate, as if he was aware of the values and reputation that West Point engenders and how those values conflicted with the guardsmen he was tasked to lead. Esposito did not want to be seen as special or somehow above his men—yet in a large scene, he was. In my view, Esposito wasn’t hated for being bad—quite the contrary. Esposito was hated for being good.

In contrast, trial records indicate that Martinez was largely perceived as a clown. In a certain sense, witnesses reported Martinez as hardworking, with several testifying that Martinez always endeavored to keep soldiers properly equipped in his role as supply sergeant—and I believe them. Nevertheless, Martinez was clearly overwhelmed with the responsibility of proper supply accountability, and in my opinion, was unlikely to equal the demands placed upon him. At root, Martinez was given a role that for his personal attributes, he was doomed to fail in.

But therein lies the heart of what I believe is Martinez’s wickedness. If Martinez had simply admitted, like a man, that he was overwhelmed, and that he was put in a position where he could never hope to succeed, Phillip Esposito would have done all within his power to help Martinez overcome his challenges. And if not Esposito, the division’s inspector general, or some other commander, would have helped Martinez to overcome the odds set against him. Martinez would have had to have framed his issues correctly—it would not (and did not) suffice for him to merely blame Esposito as was Martinez's habit. Nevertheless, had Martinez asked properly for assistance, I believe that he would have likely received it.

Yet instead, like a narcissist, trial testimony revealed that Martinez held Esposito responsible for his all problems, focusing on the person of his commander instead of the problem of supply. And here, I believe the evidence shows that Martinez chose to solve his problems via claymore landmine and premeditated murder.

Slanting a Court Martial

In reviewing the evidence and testimony from the trial, I have come to the conclusion that the government did, in fact, prove its case against Martinez as the law requires, and that Martinez did not raise a compelling defense in response. Had I been a panel member at trial, I would have voted to convict Martinez for Esposito and Allen’s murder. And thus for me, the relevant question here is exactly why then did the Martinez panel elect to acquit him.

In studying the members of the panel who sat in judgement and their testimony during voir dire, I am not convinced that all the members of the panel were impartial—that is, I am not convinced that all the members of the panel strictly applied the law, as instructed to them by the judge, to the facts of the case. I suspect that these panel members allowed their opposition to capital punishment to cloud their judgement when it came to determining Martinez’s guilt, either by outright refusing to vote to convict Martinez if death was a possible punishment, or by substituting a higher standard of proof than required by the law.

The refusal to convict Martinez if death was a punishment 

Evidence for my first condition—a refusal to convict Martinez if death was a possible punishment—squares with the voir dire testimony of at least one a panel member who ultimately sat in judgment of Martinez. When asked to explain his affirmative answer on the pre-trial panel questionnaire inquiring if he was “personally, morally, or religiously opposed to the death penalty regardless of the facts and the law in the case,” Major Carmelo Crespo answered by saying “I don’t know all of the law, all the facts, ….[a]nd every situation and circumstances change, but that [affirmative answer] was my—the best answer that I could give at that point and that’s what I believe.” Nevertheless, Martinez’s attorneys successfully rehabilitated Crespo when they elicited him to state his willingness to at least consider the death penalty in his deliberations, based upon Crespo’s view that “nothing is impossible.”

I question the law—here from as august a source as the U.S. Supreme Court—that allows a juror to sit in judgment when they say out of one corner of their mouth that they are opposed to the death penalty regardless of the facts, and then say out of the other corner that they are nevertheless willing to consider applying the death penalty on the grounds that “nothing is impossible.” To me, I see a person utterly rudderless in their principles, and not only did such a person sit on the panel that acquitted Martinez—they sat in judgment alongside their spouse, who also held similar anti-death penalty sentiments.

And I cannot help but notice that if the shoe had been on the other foot—if the panel member had indicated that he supported imposing the death penalty regardless of the facts and the law in the case, but was nevertheless willing to consider not applying the death penalty on the grounds that “nothing is impossible,” such a monster would rightly be thrown off of any murder jury. In fact, there were a host of panel nominees that were rightly excluded from the panel for their inelastic unwillingness to consider punishments other than death for the crimes which Martinez was accused of committing.

But here is the thing about military juries: they are not random, but picked—handpicked even—by the convening authority that initiates the trial. And here, Article 25 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice governs a convening authority’s discretion in selecting panel members. Article 25 states that “[w]hen convening a court-martial, the convening authority shall detail as members thereof such members of the armed forces as, in his opinion, are best qualified for the duty by reason of age, education, training, experience, length of service, and judicial temperament.”

To me, a judicial temperament, in terms of armed service, speaks to a servicemember’s steadfast willingness to uphold the law on the grounds that the rule of law under our Constitution is the one consideration that properly trumps all others. It means, in plain terms, that you are personally willing to support our form of government and its laws, even in disagreement—and that is why we as a people entrust  you with the tools of war. In my view, not all of the panel members nominated by the convening authority were fit to serve on the panel—or even as soldiers. If the military’s rules nevertheless allow such individuals to sit in judgement, and if a commander can be so blasé as to think that such people have the requisite “judicial temperament,” then I submit that the laws underpinning such a pretense require change.

An impossible standard of proof 

If I have some evidence to justify that there may have been a refusal to convict Martinez if death was a possible punishment, I argue that my second conclusion—that some on the panel may have substituted a higher standard of proof for conviction than required by the law, is properly inferred by the evidence presented by the government at trial and Martinez’s answer to it.

When I first read through the record of Martinez’s trial, I must admit that I hoped that my reading would reveal a cogent and believable argument in favor of Martinez’s innocence. After all, if Martinez had not murdered Esposito and Allen, the door would then be open to prosecute whomever actually did.

My review of the evidence did not sustain my hope. While a largely circumstantial case, the government was nevertheless able to show that Martinez had a powerful, long-standing, and ultimately overwhelming animus against Esposito, that Martinez had unique access to the murder weapon, that Martinez was present at the scene of the crime, and that Martinez displayed guilty behavior after the attacks. 

In defense, Martinez merely argued that others in the unit disliked Esposito and that they, instead of Martinez, had motive to kill him. Much ado was made over the possibility that the claymore landmine used in the attacks could have been detonated from the roof of the building where Esposito and Allen were killed, but for me, that claim evaporated when I considered the unique manner in which the landmine was emplaced, through a metal window grate and wrapped with wire—an emplacement only possible from the ground, where Martinez was ultimately found. And while not presented in argument, I dismissed the idea that Martinez acted in concert with others, for once Martinez was on trial for murder, he had a powerful incentive to turn against any co-conspirator in hopes of securing a better outcome for himself than what a trial might deliver.

Futher ado was made over Esposito’s sometimes fractious relationship with his first sergeant, but here, I could see a clear distinction between the friction between these two and the friction between Martinez and Esposito. Other possible suspects were mentioned—more like thrown against the wall in hope that perhaps something would stick, and miscues in the investigation and witness testimony were of course presented as grounds for reasonable doubt. But for me, after taking in all the evidence presented at trial, I can only reach one conclusion: Staff Sergeant Alberto Bas Martinez murdered Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen, and that the evidence of Martinez’s crime met both the burden of production and the burden of persuasion necessary to convict Martinez under our law. I thus conclude that some on the panel that judged Martinez, knowing that Martinez could be eligible for death, either voted “not guilty” to strategically nullify a possible guilty verdict, or held the government to such a high standard of proof so as to squelch any proof presented short of either eyewitness or DNA-like evidence. 

Perhaps, one day, the panel members who voted to acquit Martinez will come forward, and each explain his or her reasons, for better, or for worse. It will not make for pleasant conversation. I believe it is a conversation that is necessary all the same. Until then, I am only able to conclude that Martinez's acquittal is the result of gross error on the part of the jury that judged him. 

The Need for Soul-Searching

If one reaches back to the circumstances behind the murders of Esposito and Allen, the tragedy of needless and preventable death combined with the seemingly unjustified acquittal of the accused murderer creates a literal worst-case scenario of horrific injustice. Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen were each laid to their eternal rest in the uniform of their military service, yet in almost every aspect of their case, their fellow soldiers utterly disgraced that very uniform. That two widows and five children, along with the parents and brethren of the dead, all must live in the face of this stunning injustice shocks the conscience. This is not how such people are properly treated. This is not who we are as a people grateful to those who serve in the armed forces and defend our way of life.

Because the members of the Armed Forces will forever have to confront the challenge of facing down the criminals within their ranks, there are clear lessons from the tragedy of Esposito and Allen that we should apply to the struggle. First, that standards of military discipline exist in order to protect servicemembers from those who would let their base ends detract from the military’s proper focus and mission. Second, that compromising these standards of discipline can easily lead to unforeseeable, yet horrific outcomes. Third, that responsible military leadership demands that one insist upon a military where members are held both to account for their actions, and for their failures to act. Fourth, that even when judging from the outcome of this one tragic case, it is clear that the method for selecting the panel members of courts-martial is fundamentally unbalanced, unfair, and unjust, and demands reform.

We have all heard of Blackstone’s famous formulation that “[i]t is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” But if justice is to give a person what they deserve, and if human life is the standard through which we make our determination, no one ought to be satisfied with an otherwise guilty man living his life free and unpunished. No one ought to be satisfied that two men lay slain, and yet the institution to which they dedicated their lives has yet to learn and apply the necessary lessons from their loss.

In this article, I have glanced upon just a handful of the controversies that surround this tragedy, leaving unaddressed still-lingering questions surrounding the competency of courts-martial to justly adjudicate capital murder, the competency and experience of the military bar to prosecute and defend these cases, the seemingly inordinate delay between the offense and trial, and the inherent conflict of interest when an institution at fault is nevertheless left to police itself. None of these questions and the problems they represent will go away on their own.

And thus the legacy of Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen must be an increased devotion to justice, to those who serve our nation under arms, and to the families that help make such service possible. Echoing Lincoln and applying his thoughts here, “let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.”

6/8: minor edits for grammar and clarity.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Watching the Daughter of a Murdered Soldier

On March 25th, my partner, Nicholas Provenzo, will give a talk at the University of Baltimore School of Law on my late husband Phillip's murder, how Nicholas came to watch Phillip's and my daughter during the court-martial of Phillip's murderer, and what came of it all. 

This talk is being hosted by the University of Baltimore chapter of the Federalist Society and will be of particular interest to those who seek to make the Army a better institution in the face of Phillip's unpunished murder.

Below is a copy of the event poster.

For those interested in attending the talk and needing directions, the address of the Angelos Law Center is:

1401 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21201

Parking Garage Locations

The Maryland Avenue Garage
(between Biddle and Chase Streets)
1111 Maryland Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201

The Fitzgerald Garage
(between Maryland and Mt. Royal Avenues)
W. Oliver Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

In addition, the law center is easily accessible by Amtrak and MARC trains as the law center is directly across the street from Baltimore's Penn Station.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Where in the World is Alberto B. Martinez?

Yesterday, an anonymous commentator left the following comment on my post Seven years ago today, US Army Staff Sergeant Alberto B. Martinez murdered my husband:

This is amazing story! Due to the fact that this guy [Alberto B. Martinez] was working at Taylor Correctional Institution in Maintenance, and nobody knew his past! I spoke with him about once a week over the last few months and would have never thought this man would have such a background. Makes me wonder who else the Florida Department of Corrections has hired. Also...it should be noted that he was just terminated for "Introduction of Contraband" aka...bringing shit to inmates!

Through research, I have determined that Martinez recently lived in a worker's compound adjacent to the prison, but I was unable to explicitly confirm that Martinez worked for Taylor Correctional Institution, or that he was recently fired by it for smuggling contraband to prison inmates. Nevertheless, if true, the anonymous commentator’s post on Martinez's status leads me to conclude that 1.) Martinez is able to secure employment in positions of trust seemingly despite his benighted past, and 2.) Martinez cannot escape his character.

Since Martinez's 2008 acquittal for the murders of my late husband and First Lieutenant Louis Allen by Army court-martial, it has been my hope that the larger court of public opinion would nevertheless hold Martinez to account for his crimes. Knowing that the families of Martinez’s victims believe that Martinez is guilty of premeditated murder, my hope was that people of goodwill would elect to shun Martinez, compelling him to operate in the dark margins of society, where, in my view, he belongs. Yet in the face of the injustice that I have endured since Phillip's murder, even Martinez’s shunning is apparently too much to wish for. Despite my husband having attempted to fire Martinez for cause from the National Guard and subsequently winding up dead, Martinez seemingly still finds work.

Yet in that work, Martinez seems unable to hold himself to a just moral standard. To the best of my knowledge, his alleged firing by the Florida Department of Corrections would mark the third time that Martinez has been fired in connection with unethical conduct upon his part, the first being Martinez’s termination from UPS for alleged package-insurance fraud and the second being the relief for cause initiated by my late husband against Martinez in Iraq in 2005.

Ultimately, I believe that Martinez will reap all that he has sown. I believe that the cumulative effect of Martinez’s immorality, viciousness and cowardice will result in his own self-inflicted destruction. When that day comes, I will be glad for it, for Martinez will have finally received what I believe he deserves.

Moreover, if Martinez produces secondary victims along the way, I will remind the panel members of the court-martial that acquitted Martinez for Phillip's and Lou's murders of all that they have wrought. He who spares the wicked harms the good, and those who have spared the wicked require reminder of it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

'[A]s a leader he always showed a quality of courage beyond the strongest of leaders.'

Dominic Oto, the officer who replaced Phillip as H&H Commandant after Phillip was murdered, has posted a fitting tribute to Phillip's memory on his website. Here is an excerpt:
Straightness, honesty, naturalness, loyalty, courage—all these qualities could be used to describe Phil, but none is quite right, for the quality that made him a good man and great friend embraces all these. Many of the heroes I write about possess courage, charm and professional skill. Phil, by contrast, is celebrated as a hero because his intelligence, nobility and most of his all his generosity matched his courage. He was braver than any of us. He was the best of us. He is missed fiercely.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Vote 'NO' on Debo Adegbile

I recently sent a letter, key parts included below, to Senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley, the Chairman and ranking member of the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary. My purpose was to share with the committee my opposition to Mr. Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice. ~SME

As the widow of Captain Phillip Esposito, USA, who was murdered in Iraq in 2005 and whose killer was subsequently acquitted by court-martial held before XVIII Airborne Corps in 2008, I wish to voice my opposition to Mr. Debo Adegbile, the President’s nominee to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice.
In reviewing the letters sent to you in support of Mr. Adegbile, a reoccurring theme is evident: Mr. Adegbile’s actions in defense of death-row appellant Mumia Abu-Jamal are ostensibly above reproach on the grounds that every criminal defendant is entitled to the assistance of legal counsel.
This claim misses a corollary truth: while every criminal defendant has a right to a zealous defender, they do not enjoy a right to an over-zealous defender. Moreover, a lawyer’s actions in support of a client, both in and out of court, while technically permissible, may nevertheless reveal substantial defects in character, temperament, and philosophy that make that lawyer unsuited to positions of great national trust and power. I need not engage in an extended soliloquy to successfully argue that the 1982 trial of Abu-Jamal and his subsequent appeals were caustic affairs, or that Abu-Jamal and his defenders, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Mr. Adegbile among them, resorted to some of the most vicious tactics in memory, to include a multi-year propaganda campaign against the Philadelphia Police Department, Abu-Jamal’s victim, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, and Officer Faulkner’s widow, Mrs. Maureen Faulkner.
It is this propaganda campaign, stunningly world-wide in scope, which troubles me most, particularly for its flippant regard for the truth, divisive racial smears, and unjust impact upon Officer Faulkner’s widow. To turn around and claim that those linked to it are nevertheless qualified to hold positions of great trust—and in Mr. Adegbile’s case, great trust related to enforcing laws related to the mission of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice—is jarring in its arrogance and cruelty. 
At root, the Civil Rights Division requires greater leadership and more nuanced discretion than Mr. Adegbile seemingly possesses. I ask that your committee reject his nomination accordingly.
Mrs. Siobhan Esposito

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mr. "Anonymous" strikes again

Yesterday, I received the following unsigned comment to my post, "Seven years ago today, US Army Staff Sergeant Alberto B. Martinez murdered my husband":

Same thing Anonymous said. I was in the 42ID when this happened. Your husband was not a well liked officer who honestly was a jerk to most people. When someone dies we glorify them but I knew your husband and he was not well liked by his piers (sic). It could have been anyone. I am sorry you lost a husband but Alberto B. Martinez was declared innocent. Quit defaming his name. 

This comment is apparently made in response to an earlier comment, made by an anonymous individual who argued that Staff Sergeant Martinez “was declared innocent by a jury of his piers (sic).”

For inanimate objects associated with fishing, mooring sea vessels, and long walks, “piers” nevertheless play a central role in these individuals’ claims—that is, if there even are, in fact, two separate people posting these comments.

These comments are beneath me. They are the vile, inarticulate emanations of the morally depraved. As I have answered this person before, I direct them to that answer. This time around, I only remind the reader that none other than Martinez himself admitted to murdering my late husband when he offered a plea deal in order to forgo execution.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Mother's Sorrow

According to the CNN, Cathleen Alexis, the mother of the Navy Yard killer, has expressed her sympathies to the family-members of her son's victims.
Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis' mother apologized Wednesday for her son's actions, saying she was glad that he is "now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone." 
"I don't know why he did what he did, and I'll never be able to ask him why," Cathleen Alexis said in a statement recorded by CNN.
"I'm so, so very sorry this has happened. My heart is broken," she said.
Through her statement, Ms. Alexis has done something that family of Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez has never seen fit to do: express heartfelt sorrow over the cruelty unleashed by her son. As the spouse of one of Staff Sergeant Martinez's murdered victims, I commend Ms. Alexis for her moral courage and sense of decency.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An anonymous comment defending Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez

On July 28th, the following comment was left on my blog by an anonymous commenter:

"Your husband was murdered but not by his accuser. There was no lack of discipline in the 42nd ID. Maybe its (sic) your perspective but your husband was not some "amazing: (sic) leader maybe mediocre at that. His accuser was declared innocent by a jury of his piers (sic) and you should stop these post (sic) that defame his name."

It appears Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez has a champion, or perhaps Martinez himself has paid a visit to my blog and shared with us his thoughts. In any case, I will address the anonymous commenter's claims in the order presented.

  • "Your husband was murdered but not by his accuser."

Tortured syntax aside, this sentence seems to assert that Staff Sergeant Martinez did not murder my late husband, Phillip, yet the commenter provides absolutely no evidence to justify such a claim beyond bare assertion. My answer: quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur—what is asserted without reason may be denied without reason.

  • "There was no lack of discipline in the 42nd ID."

I find it stunning that veterans of the 42nd Infantry Division just bristle at my charge that members of their division were grossly unprofessional and that this lack of professionalism is a stain on the division as a whole. Here, my thoughts are straightforward: my husband lies dead because soldiers in his division failed to enforce standards of military discipline that would have checked a murderer long before his actions rose to murder. 

In fact, soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division permitted Staff Sergeant Martinez many indulgences that only emboldened him in his rage against my late husband. Martinez told practically anyone who would listen that he hated my husband Phillip and that Phillip deserved violent harm. Granting Martinez mercy and forbearance for such statements was utterly unjustified—and my husband and his fellow victim, 1st Lieutenant Louis Allen, paid the ultimate price for it. An honorable veteran of the 42nd Infantry Division would recognize such a failure for the black mark it is and feel regret and shame for it, even if he or she wasn't directly responsible for the failure. An honorable veteran of the 42nd Infantry Division would say "yes, such an injustice was grossly wrong, and we were all lessened for it."

In contrast, a veteran without honor would whimper about being judged unfairly—even in the knowledge that my late husband Phillip and 1st Lieutenant Allen suffered a fate far, far worse then they will likely ever know. 

  • "Maybe its (sic) your perspective but your husband was not some "amazing: (sic) leader maybe mediocre at that."

Again, quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. Yet for argument's sake, let us take the anonymous commenter at his word: my late husband was ostensibly a mediocre officer. Do mediocre officers deserve to die by Claymore mine, without any sort of hearing, and without any opportunity to defend themselves, all for their alleged mediocrity? The thought is patently absurd, yet Staff Sergeant Martinez's defense team implicitly argued as much as they tried to shift attention away from their client. How weak a defense though—to blame the victim for his own murder—how deeply shameful and pathetic.

  • "His accuser was declared innocent by a jury of his piers (sic) and you should stop these post (sic) that defame his name."

If Staff Sergeant Martinez's defender thinks that Martinez was "declared innocent" of murdering my late husband Phillip and 1st Lieutenant Allen, he or she would do well to study a primer on the American criminal justice system. A court martial found Staff Sergeant Martinez "not guilty" of the charges brought against him. Taken in a light most charitable to Martinez, all this verdict means is that the government did not successfully prove its case against Martinez "beyond a reasonable doubt"—the legal standard required by our law. Such a verdict does not imply that Martinez was somehow "declared innocent" of the charges levied against him.

Of course, based upon the testimony and evidence that I observed at Alberto Martinez's pretrial hearings and at his court martial, there is no doubt in my mind that Martinez murdered my late husband and 1st Lieutenant Allen. I find the court martial's verdict acquitting Martinez utterly unjustified and morally indefensible. All the same, I respect that honest readers will have to form their own opinion based upon their thorough reading of the evidence in this case. This is my way, and it was my late husband Phillip's way as well.   

Nevertheless, there is one thing that the anonymous commenter and I agree fully upon: Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez was judged at court martial by a group of soldiers very much his peer; so much so that I think that they all deserve one another, each the others equal in virtue.

Justice is hard—it can take volumes of thought and work to give a person what they honestly deserve. The anonymous commenter probably thinks that they are defending Martinez and they are certainly not alone in attempting to give this wicked man comfort.

Yet as Dr. Martin Luther King once observed, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Try as they may, they cannot refine a murderer, and they shall not succeed in silencing me.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Remembering my husband, Phillip Esposito, on Memorial Day

“Are you doing anything fun for Memorial Day?”

The question comes innocently enough, but it jars me all the same. In 2005, my late husband, Army Captain Phillip Esposito, was murdered when a subordinate solider detonated a claymore anti-personnel landmine in my husband’s sleeping quarters, killing my husband and another soldier. In 2008, Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, of Schaghticoke, NY, was acquitted by court martial of any responsibility for the slayings, this despite evidence that placed Martinez at the scene of the crime, connected him to the weapon used, and established his overwhelming hatred against my husband for attempting to relieve him for cause.

In this light, I do not celebrate Memorial Day as much as I endure it.

The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor servicemembers who died in defense of our nation. These servicemembers all took an oath that defined the nature of their commitment. Today that oath is as follows:
I, [NAME], do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
I believe that Phillip and his fellow slain soldier, 1st Lieutenant Louis Allen, each lived up to the terms of that oath. The tragedy of their deaths is that far too many of their fellow soldiers did not.

Phillip’s fellow soldiers did not live up to their oath of enlistment when they left Staff Sergeant Martinez’s repeated threats and gestures of contempt against Phillip go unpunished, in defiance of military law. Had Martinez been properly held to account for these threats, Phillip and Lou would likely be alive today.

But there is another group of soldiers who failed to live up to their oath of enlistment. I believe that the jurors who voted to acquit Martinez also failed to live up to their oath when they allegedly allowed their bias against capital punishment cloud their judgment, when they allegedly used their rank to squelch honest deliberation, and when they allegedly failed to properly vote upon all the charges sent to them by the military judge administering Martinez’s trial. If these allegations are true, I find the actions of these jurors—all soldiers in the Army— irresponsible and cowardly. Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez is a liar, a thief, and a murderer. His jury should have found as much and punished Martinez accordingly.

I wonder, as Phillip’s friends and family grieve his loss this Memorial Day, how will a villain like Staff Sergeant Martinez mark the holiday? Does he grill burgers and hot dogs with his friends and family who are indifferent to his blood-stained soul? Does he hold his children close? Does he even dare speak of his time in Iraq—time spent avoiding his professional responsibility and instead fermenting his wicked plot to murder his commander and his executive officer? Does Martinez even think of Phillip’s daughter, or Lou’s four sons, and the tears and sadness his actions have brought to their lives, on Memorial Day?

I must accept that Alberto Martinez does not think of these things—at least not as a moral person would, for if Martinez were moral, he never would have committed murder in the first place. Instead, he would have performed the tasks assigned to him as his own oath of enlistment demanded, and falling short, he would have accepted his circumstance like a soldier.

Like a soldier. The word conjures up a host of contradictions. The best of America’s soldiers have defended and preserved our constitution and republic through the most trying of times. The worst—well, I don’t have to imagine what the worst have done. I only have to think of Phillip as he lay in his coffin, the innocent victim of unbridled cruelty, to be reminded of what the worst of America’s soldiers have brought to my life.

But on Memorial Day, I will remember my husband Phillip. I will remember his virtue, his honesty, and the love we shared together. Our daughter shall remember Phillip as well, and together, we will recommit ourselves to the brand of justice that says that Phillip’s life mattered, and that in his death, we seek just accountability and reform.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Army Public Affairs strikes again

In the face of the claims made by members of the Martinez court-martial alleging that a senior member of the panel used her rank to prematurely squelch deliberations before their proper conclusion, and that as an ostensive time-saving measure, the panel did not vote on the specifications of the charge concerning the murder of 1st Lieutenant Allen, the Army could respond in a number of ways.

The Army could keep a proper silence, refusing to comment on the matter until it possesses all of the relevant facts. The Army could conduct a formal investigation to determine the truth behind these allegations. The Army could seek Mrs. Allen and me out, if only to have us formally submit our claims.

Instead, we have Army Public Affairs spokesman Lt. Col. Laurel Devine. According to a report filed by Times Union reporter Robert Gavin:
When reached Monday, a Pentagon-based Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Laurel Devine, would only say, "We stand behind the jury's decision."
We stand behind the jury's decision—to acquit Staff Sergeant Martinez, the government's only suspect in the murder of my late husband and 1st Lieutenant Allen. We stand behind the jury's decision—even in the face of these serious and life-altering allegations of jury misconduct. We stand behind the jury's decision—without so much as a cursory inquiry into the allegations that have been made by the widows of the victims.

I have heard this song before. When I opposed former 42nd Infantry Division commander Major General Joseph Taluto's nomination to serve as director of the National Guard in 2009 on the grounds that I believe that General Taluto failed to enforce well-established and broad-based principles of military discipline and ensure that these principles were enforced throughout his division, I was met with Army Public Affairs spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Durr. Answering me in a media interview, Lt. Col. Durr attempted to downplay the seriousness of the hundreds of vicious death threats and other gestures of contempt that court witnesses testified Staff Sergeant Martinez uttered against my late husband. According to Lt. Col. Durr:
"I would just submit that if you took the instance where everybody said "I hate that S.O.B." or "I'm going to take care of him" in a moment of anger in any organization, in hindsight it all seems wonderfully clear, but as we go through our day-to-day life it is never that crystal clear."
My answer then to Lt. Col. Durr was that Article 89 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not have a "wonderfully clear" clause that absolves a soldier of his obligation to enforce the law prohibiting death threats against a superior commissioned officer in moments of alleged ambiguity.

My answer today to Lt. Col. Devine is that she has just made it clear why the Army cannot be trusted to properly investigate the allegations of jury misconduct in the Martinez court martial. Barbara Allen and I echo a report of unlawful command influence and other misconduct in the jury room—and Lt. Col. Devine has indicated the Army's stance in the face of it. "We stand behind the jury's decision."

The Army can stand behind the Martinez jury and its decision all it wants. I want accountability, fair play, and justice, and I will not rest until I have it, for Phillip, for our daughter Madeline, for Phillip's parents and family, and for myself.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Albany Times Union: Army widows: Martinez jury tainted

In this article released today, reporter Robert Gavin of the Albany Times Union examines the recent allegations of juror misconduct in the trial of the soldier who murdered my late husband Phillip and First Lieutenant Louis Allen.

Here is a key quote from Barbara Allen, the widow of First Lieutenant Allen:
"Not only does this news emotionally shock me, but legally, it is a disgraceful breach of protocol," Allen, 40, the mother of the lieutenant's four sons, ages 9 to 13, told the Times Union from her home in Orange County. Allen said she has learned from jurors that the high-ranked juror told lower-ranking jurors to "shut up" if they wanted to continue deliberating.
Read the full report here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Journal News: 'Soldier's widow challenges Army, jury's acquittal'

Today, the Journal News published reporter Hema Easley's story covering my allegation of misconduct in the court-martial of Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez.

Here is a short excerpt from Easley's report:
"Now, seven years after her husband, Capt. Phillip Esposito of Suffern, was killed, and nearly four years after a military jury found the staff sergeant charged with murdering her husband not guilty, Siobhan Esposito will be asking the Army to investigate concerns that the acquittal was the result of deliberate misconduct in the jury room."
Read the whole report here.