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. 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.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Address of Siobhan Esposito before the Graduates of the United States Military Academy Class of 1997

Note: Yesterday, I spoke at the fifteen-year reunion of the US Military Academy Class of 1997. Below is the text of my address.  

I thank the Class of 1997 for providing me this opportunity to address its members—the classmates of my late husband Captain Phillip Esposito.

In the fifteen years since the members of the Class of 1997 threw up their hats in celebration of their graduation from the Military Academy, eleven members of its ranks have died.

The largest number died in armed combat with a foreign enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan. A smaller number died from accidents or disease. One member of your class, my husband Phillip, was murdered by a subordinate soldier while deployed in Iraq. Phillip's death and its consequences—for you and the institution both you and Phillip served—are what I shall speak about today. In the interest of time, I will speak in broad essentials.

I am told that the depth and intensity of the West Point experience reveals a person’s character for all to see. If a person is deceitful or lazy, they will not be able to hide it for long, but if a person is moral and true, their virtue will propel them to positions of great trust and authority. My husband Phillip was honest, hardworking, and just, and his virtue propelled him to the responsibility of commissioned leadership in the Army and the National Guard. Yet it is the sad truth of Phillip's life that his virtue was not met in kind by the Army in which he served.

Phillip's virtue was not met in kind when Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, a subordinate under Phillip's command, made literally hundreds of death threats and gestures of contempt against Phillip in the year leading to Phillip's death. These threats, observed by both officers and enlisted soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division and known throughout the chain of command, were left unchallenged and unpunished under Article 89 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which proscribes disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer.

Phillip's virtue was not met in kind when, on the night of June 7, 2005, in the darkness of an Iraqi sandstorm, Staff Sergeant Martinez acted upon his rage and placed a claymore anti-personnel landmine in the window of Phillip's command post and then detonated it, murdering both Phillip and Martinez's replacement, 1st Lieutenant Louis Allen.

Phillip's virtue was not met in kind when military investigators arrested and interrogated Staff Sergeant Martinez absent probable cause as demanded by the Fourth Amendment, leading the trial judge to exclude Staff Sergeant Martinez's statement from the evidence presented at Martinez's court-martial.

Phillip's virtue was not met in kind when, despite overwhelming evidence that placed Staff Sergeant Martinez at the scene of the crime, linked him to the weapon used, and established Martinez's murderous hatred against Phillip for attempting to relieve Martinez for cause, Staff Sergeant Martinez was nonetheless acquitted by a court-martial of any responsibility for Phillip's and 1st Lieutenant Allen's slaying.

As the ultimate finders of fact, a jury enjoys great deference in both our system of government and our society—so great in fact that I have observed that the typical response to the acquittal of Staff Sergeant Martinez is for observers to conclude that there must have been something missing from the evidence presented at Martinez's court-martial to justify the jury's verdict. These observers are half right; there was something missing, but it was not evidence necessary to prove Martinez's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unlike a civilian jury, where jurors are randomly selected to sit in judgment, in the armed forces, the members of a court-martial are selected by the commanding general convening the trial. Here, Article 25 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice governs the convening authority's discretion in selecting panel members. Article 25 states that the convening authority shall choose members who are "in his opinion, [b]est qualified for the duty by reason of age, education, training, experience, length of service, and judicial temperament."

Let me focus upon the last qualification noted in Article 25: a "judicial temperament." To give justice is to give a person what they deserve. Accordingly, a judicial temperament must be a disposition to give a person—any person—what they deserve.

But to give a person what they deserve presupposes a standard of value—a standard of determining just what it is that a person deserves.

For a member of the armed forces, this standard of value is determined by one's oath of enlistment—one's solemn promise of what they will do as a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine. Upon taking the oath of enlistment, a service member pledges to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [to] bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and [to] obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over [them], according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

The oath of enlistment has a serious moral and legal meaning—it defines both the purpose of one's enlistment and the legal code that will animate one's service. To swear to it means that one freely subordinates themselves in support of our American form of government, the laws enacted by Congress that govern the armed forces, and the leaders selected by the commander-in-chief to lead the armed forces. I doubt I have to remind this audience that men and women have accepted death rather than disgrace that oath.

Thus, in this context—that a service member freely subordinates him or herself to the Constitution and our laws that he has pledged his life to defend—let me ask you the following:

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a service member who states that anyone convicted of murder should automatically be executed, regardless of the law?

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a service member who says that military investigators routinely lie and cheat in order to secure convictions?

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a service member who says that only God can take a life, and therefore that they would refuse to impose a sentence of death even upon a person guilty of premeditated murder?

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a service member who says on one hand that they oppose the death penalty regardless of the facts and the law, but on the other hand, that they would consider imposing the death penalty because quote "anything can happen"?

Is a judicial temperament indicated by a married couple sitting in judgment, knowing that a jury must not begin their deliberations until the end of a case, and knowing that most married partners communicate and are able to sway one another without uttering so much as a single word?

I say "no." I say that these examples indicate a temperament that is anything but judicial. Nevertheless, soldiers holding these views were nominated by the convening authority to sit in judgment of Staff Sergeant Martinez. Of the individuals depicted here, all but one came to serve on the panel that voted to acquit Martinez. Only the member who indicated his inelastic desire to put convicted murderers to death, regardless of the law, was excluded by the military judge from serving on the panel.

And let me be absolutely clear: even a person accused of a cruel and heinous crime, even Staff Sergeant Martinez, a man for whom I feel nothing but contempt, deserves a fair and impartial trial. That was Phillip's moral code, and it is my moral code as well. Accordingly, I agree that the exclusion of the one juror was just and appropriate, but I hold that the military judge’s failure to exclude the others was egregiously unjust and highly inappropriate.

You may be asking yourself why then did the military judge exclude the one, but not the others. The straightforward answer is that the law allows it. Because the convening authority is given the power to personally select panel members, military judges are required to liberally grant defense challenges to strike a juror for cause, but military judges are not required to liberally grant similar prosecution challenges. In fact, in the 2005 case United States v. James, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces explicitly held that "[g]iven the convening authority's broad power to appoint [panel members], there is no basis for application of the "liberal grant" policy when a military judge is ruling on the government's challenges for cause."

And thus for the last four years since Staff Sergeant Martinez was acquitted by court-martial, I have lived with the knowledge that the number of soldiers required to acquit Martinez were not objective—that these panel members were not animated by a soldier's true faith and allegiance to our constitution and our laws, but instead were animated by their own private whims and caprice. I have lived with the added knowledge that military law permitted it.

And this knowledge is vicious and cruel enough. But I have recently learned of allegations that I consider even more sinister and damning, and which, if true, impugns the integrity of the entire military criminal justice system.

I have recently been informed that a juror who sat in judgment of Staff Sergeant Martinez has privately alleged that a senior member of the panel used her rank to prematurely squelch deliberations before their proper conclusion, and that two jurors have privately alleged 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. Specifically, I have been informed that the acquittal of Staff Sergeant Martinez is the product of the unlawful command influence of this senior panel member, and that the panel did not scrupulously follow the instructions of the military judge as it tallied the votes for its verdict.

The case of United States v. Accordino, decided in 1985 by the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, closely parallels the allegations made by the panel member in the Martinez court-martial. In the Accordino case, a sergeant in the Air Force was convicted by court-martial of the wrongful use of cocaine and marijuana and she appealed. The Court of Military Appeals held that the affidavits of two court members alleging that the board president had cut short the discussion on the findings could be considered to impeach the sergeant's conviction on the basis of unlawful command influence. In the face of this allegation, the court set aside the sergeant's conviction and returned the case for a new trial.

There is no opportunity for any new hearing in the case of my murdered husband; there will be no new trial as the Fifth Amendment's protection against double jeopardy does not permit retrials even in the face of this kind of misconduct. But here, I think that the legal test for unlawful command influence is instructive. Unlawful command influence exists when "a reasonable member of the public, if aware of all of the facts, would have a loss of confidence in the military justice system and believe it to be unfair."

I have lost all confidence in the military justice system. I believe it to be unfair. You will have to make up your own mind as to whether I am reasonable or not.

Under the principle of full disclosure, I must inform you that the military justice establishment largely disagrees with me. For example, in 1999, the Joint Service Committee on Military Justice examined how the Armed Forces convene their courts-martial. The Committee concluded in its report to Congress that current practice "ensures fair panels of court-martial members who are best qualified" and that there is "no evidence of systemic unfairness or unlawful command influence." Yet in a 2011 editorial on the application of the military death penalty, the New York Times observed that "eight out of 10 [military] death sentences have been overturned, compared with a reversal rate of 3 to 8 percent in military non-capital cases."

So on one hand, we have a claim of no evidence of systemic unfairness in the military, and yet on the other hand, we have a claim that says 80% of the death sentences handed out by courts-martial are subsequently overturned upon appeal. I respectfully submit to you that when prosecuting capital murder, the military justice system is systemically broken.

The question for you is how many failures you need to see before you believe it— and how many failures you need to see before you demand action.

And in a larger sense, you cannot tell me that the victims of the Ft. Hood massacre in 2009 would have been murdered all the same if the Army had learned the needed lessons from Phillip's death.

At Ft. Hood, the stage for murder was set by a mind-numbing political correctness that failed to hold a killer to account for his avowed sympathy for the enemy's cause. In the case of Phillip's death, the stage for murder was set by a mind-numbing clique of poor performers who favored coddling an inept supply sergeant who nevertheless was their "buddy" over upholding the Army's own principles and defending the life of their commander.

The great American statesman Daniel Webster once observed that “every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man's life.” The English poet W. H. Auden found that "murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest." And rejecting the moral status quo that dominates our age, the philosopher Ayn Rand observed that "today's mawkish concern with and compassion for the feeble, the flawed, the suffering, the guilty, is a cover for the profound [h]atred of the innocent, the strong, the able, the successful, the virtuous, the confident, the happy."

My husband Phillip—your classmate—was innocent, strong, able, successful, virtuous, confident, and happy. I loved Phillip for it, yet Phillip's killer murdered Phillip for these virtues because they embodied everything that the killer was not.

The wrongful acquittal of this murderer recoils upon the Army, and the Army's failure to learn the larger cultural lessons of this tragedy continues to put soldiers' lives at risk. Yet I am here to tell you that the Army has not learned the necessary lessons from the tragedy of Phillip's death.

For example, in 2009, Phillip's division commander, Major General Joseph Taluto, was nominated to receive his third star and serve as director of the National Guard. I publicly opposed General Taluto’s nomination 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 believe that General Taluto's failure here set the stage for Phillip's murder—even if Taluto was never personally aware of the problems in Phillip's company.

I was met with a rather despicable answer from the general in reply to my argument. In a news interview, General Taluto's PR spokesman tried to downplay the gravity of Staff Sergeant Martinez's threats against Phillip's life, claiming that quote "[he] 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." 

Perhaps it's just me. But I think that when an enlisted soldier speaks of his commander by saying that he "hate[s] that motherfucker" and that he's "going to frag that motherfucker," and he greets other soldiers with the daily greeting of "fucking frag him" as Staff Sergeant Martinez did according to the eyewitness testimony of over twenty witnesses, the soldier has made his contempt plain.

Yet in any case, Article 89 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not have a "wonderfully clear" clause that absolves soldiers of their duty to enforce the law in moments of alleged ambiguity. That the soldiers and officers of Phillip's division felt differently to the point that Phillip could receive hundreds of threats against his life and yet no one would act to uphold the law reveals a systemic lack of discipline that indicts the entire chain of command.

I am glad to report to you that General Taluto did not receive his promotion. General Taluto decided to withdraw his nomination two weeks after the Army's preliminary report on the Ft. Hood massacre, and lest my concerns about him become a "distraction" for the Army. But in falling on his sword for the alleged sake of the Army, General Taluto managed to moot the larger investigation that my opposition into his nomination engendered.

We must not let this be the end of Phillip's story. Phillip's murder demands atonement—for his sake, for the sake of our daughter Madeline, who was never afforded the opportunity to know her father, for the sake of Phillip's parents, who lovingly raised a son only to see him struck down with unpunished cruelty, and for the sake of the Army that Phillip loved and served with all his devotion.

Lou Allen's death also deserves atonement. Here was a man who also loved the Army and who also served it with all his devotion. My husband brought Lou over to Iraq because Lou was a man with integrity who knew how to lead soldiers and fix problems. Lou answered Phillip's call to help him rebuild a broken unit to insure that it was ready for the rigors of combat, and Lou was also murdered for his virtues. It sickens me that the jurors tasked with determining Staff Sergeant Martinez's guilt or innocence were so indifferent to the value of Lou's life that they did not have the common decency to properly vote on the charges that related to Lou. What a slap in the face to Lou's wife and their four sons that for the members of this jury, the dignity of Lou's life wasn't even worth the few short hours it would have taken them to conduct a proper vote in accordance with the military judge's instructions. What a disgrace to the uniform that Phillip and Lou now wear forever in their graves.

I am here before you today to issue a call to action. There must be a proper accounting, or even more lives will be destroyed, and our system of justice will come into even more disrepute.

I call upon the Army to fully investigate the allegation of unlawful command influence in the jury-room of the Martinez court-martial that I allege here today. The jurors who made these allegations need to come forward and swear to all that they have alleged—there is no room for any more cowardice. I call upon the Army to finally acknowledge that Phillip's and Lieutenant Allen's murder was, in part, the product of a faulty culture of defective leadership and broken accountability, and thus recommit itself to its own standards of military discipline. And I call upon the Army to address the defects in its justice system that allowed a killer to go free, and that delivers far less than the full degree of justice that lies within human grasp.

And I call upon you, Phillip's classmates, to stand with me in this fight. I have created a foundation in Phillip's memory that seeks to advance the cause of criminal justice. You can pledge your support and offer your leadership to this foundation today. I also seek to build a fitting and poetic artistic monument to Phillip's life here at the campus of West Point, so that future Army officers can find inspiration in the man Phillip was, and resolve never to surrender the cause of justice as it was surrendered with Phillip's death. You can pledge your support to this effort as well.

But most importantly, you, as individuals, and as a class of Phillip's brothers and sisters in arms, can join me in my call for full and complete accountability.

Please know this: I will take no backward steps. I will fight upon these lines for as long as it takes. I know that many of you have endured great trials in your service to our nation, and as I noted in the beginning of my address, I know that some of your classmates have given the last, full measure of their devotion in faithful service to America and the principles for which America stands. I say to you that my struggle in the face of Phillip's needless and preventable murder and the incomprehensible acquittal of Phillip's murderer is part and parcel of the same struggle. But I need your help.

I thank the Class of 1997 for providing me this opportunity to speak. It needed to be said, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to finally say it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A note to my friends and supporters on the recent actions of Ray Ortega

It has come to my understanding that a Mr. Ray Ortega, a former defense investigator for the government’s suspect in the murder of my late husband, Captain Phillip Esposito, has created a website to solicit funds for his private investigation of my husband’s murder and the murder of 1st Lieutenant Louis Allen.  I do not condone this website and I encourage you not to visit or support it.

In this website, styled "," Ortega claims that he has developed his own theory on who murdered my late husband and 1st Lieutenant Allen and that he seeks monetary support to continue his private investigation.

In the past, Ortega has contacted me privately to secure my financial assistance for his endeavors. He presented me with no evidence beyond his mere assertions, yet he sought for me to underwrite his investigation.

It goes without saying that I flatly rejected Ortega’s request.  I told Ortega that if he possesses evidence that implicates another suspect in the murder of my husband and 1st Lieutenant Allen, he should turn it over to government prosecutors immediately and worry about his reward later.

To my knowledge, Ortega did not act on my advice.

But by using my late husband’s name, my name, and by quoting me on his website, I am concerned that Ortega creates an impression that I somehow sanction his use of my husband’s name, my name, and his investigation of my husband’s death.

Unequivocally, I do not. In my opinion, neither should you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

'Insuring' the Status Quo at Gold Star Wives

As a candidate for the Board of Directors of Gold Star Wives of America, I expected at least some resistance to the ideas that I propose, if only because I see such a pressing need for the organization to step up its advocacy on behalf of surviving spouses. That said, I didn't expect this kind of opposition. On the Gold Star Wives Facebook page, Gold Star Wives national outreach chair Rachel Clinkscale publicly scolded me for my platform, writing:
"You should not be posting GSW information on this Facebook (sic), Social Networking sites is (sic) not covered under the organizations insurance, only the monitored internet site are (sic) covered."
The claim that a candidate for the board of directors of an organization should not speak openly about what they would do if elected because of so-called "insurance" reasons is such ridiculous folly, I won't bother to examine it; I'll only ask what it seeks to achieve. Clearly Ms. Clinkscale is threatened by new ideas to improve Gold Star Wives. Clearly Ms. Clinkscale seeks to squelch discussion of new ideas.

Yet new ideas and thoughtful discussion is exactly what Gold Star Wives needs if it is to achieve its mission of advancing the cause of surviving spouses.

Ms. Clinkscale continues:
[Y]ou have some very ambitious plans like taking over the Chairman of the Board and National President's positions.
The claim that a member of the board of directors of an organization usurps the positions of the Chairman and National President by declaring an agenda that they seek the organization to adopt is equally ridiculous folly. As a board member, I would have only one vote with which to advance any proposal. Thus any proposal, be it mine, or anyone else's, will require the support of board members. Thus any proposal, be it mine, or anyone else's, will require the support of the majority of the members of Gold Star Wives.

Lastly, as national outreach chair of Gold Star Wives, Ms. Clinkscale wrote in the Gold Star Wives' March newsletter that "sometimes we don't agree with the life styles of the younger widow but it's not our place to judge them –  just love them."

Perhaps I should add a final point to my platform. I seek a more effective organization that welcomes new members. As such, I will not sit silently when people in charge of outreach patronize younger widows with such condescending statements as Ms. Clinkscale's.

So yes, I will work to change attitudes for the better. Our needs as surviving military spouses deserves no less.

UPDATE: My platform has been removed from GSW's Facebook page. Corinna Gibson-Ashmead deleted my post claiming in a message to me that "a good point was made that not everyone is on FB and therefore it is not an equal/fair platform presentation for all candidates." Ms. Gibson-Ashmead refused to indicate who made this "good point" and stated that she was acting out of her own independent judgement as Facebook administrator.

Needless to say, I disagree with this action. Rather than squelch discussion and debate, I think that GSW should be encouraging potential leaders to share their ideas for the future of the organization. Furthermore, there's nothing to say that members could not assist the less technically savvy in getting the word out. I, for one, would be happy to host any candidate's ideas on my website if it was thought that doing so would help serve the larger interest of the organization.

At root, we should be working to raise the bar, not lower it.