Saturday, February 21, 2009

'After Guilty Plea Offer, G.I. Cleared of Iraq Deaths '

It has been three months since Alberto Martinez was acquitted of his responsibility for the double murder of my husband Capt. Phillip Esposito and his comrade 1st Lt. Lou Allen. Today the New York Times ran a front page story describing how Martinez had offered a plea deal to the government acknowledging his guilt and accepting life imprisonment in exchange for his being spared the death penalty. The article details how Martinez’s offer was unilaterally rejected by Lt. Gen. John R. Vines who had made his decision without so much as informing the families affected by Martinez’s actions.

This news is shocking and offensive. I hold that Lt. Gen. Vines had an ethical responsibility to inform us that Martinez had admitted his guilt and offered a plea. Nevertheless, he withheld this crucial information from us and denied us any input into his decision. Now we have to live with the fallout of his actions while he does nothing but enjoy his retirement.

This is yet another injustice and proof that my husband and my family were betrayed by the leadership of the Army.

Update: Here is additional coverage of this story by Robert Gavin of the Times Union.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Silence Is Not Golden

It is now almost two months since the verdict that acquitted Alberto Martinez of his responsibility for the murder of my husband. I am still standing, but I am also still struggling to understand all that has happened and the reasons behind it.

A few weeks ago, I sent the following message to the members of the military jury that sat in judgment of Martinez.

I understand that my friend Barbara has contacted you and I wanted to do the same. I am writing you to ask for your assistance.

I recognize that the rules governing courts martial preclude you from discussing your deliberations in the trial of my husband's accused murderer and I respect your obligations under these rules. Nevertheless, for my own peace of mind and the peace of mind of my daughter, who I will soon have to explain all that has occurred as a result of the death of her father, I respectfully ask that you share with me your thoughts about the trial in which you served. I specifically ask that you share with me your personal estimate of the evidence presented in court.

I have reviewed the instructions that you have been given and I believe that you can share your opinions with me and do so without violating your instructions not to discuss your deliberations or the deliberations of your fellow panel members. I ask that you do as much, even as I recognize that it may be uncomfortable for you to open yourself in this way.

We sat in the courtroom together. I saw your face and you saw mine. I doubt that I need to impress upon you what the death of my husband has done to my life. What I need now is the ability to reconcile all that has happened. Good or bad, I ask that you help give me the ability to put all the facts in their proper place so that I may continue with my life. You have that power.

Not knowing or understanding is torture. I ask you to grant me some relief.

If you wish for me not to communicate with you further please let me know and I will honor that wish. My purpose is not to intrude or make you uncomfortable. My purpose is to understand.


Siobhan Esposito

Two jurors subsequently contacted me. Hearing from them has helped me--it has helped me to understand that I was not fully alone in the courtroom for those two months of trial. I thank them for their willingness to speak to me.

I do not thank the individuals behind the following message that I received via my attorney (I have redacted the personal information of the SJA and my attorney):

From: USA FORSCOM [mailto]
Sent: Mon 1/26/2009 3:26 PM
To: My Attorney

Subject: Contact with Panel Members (UNCLASSIFIED)

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

[My attorney],

Mrs. Esposito and Mrs. Allen have been e-mailing the panel members requesting information about the trial. Please inform the spouses that the following panel members do not want to be contacted:

COL Fiorey
LTC Crespo
LTC Bowsher
MAJ Burton
MAJ Crespo
SGM Wilson
SFC Evans

I will pass on any other names of members who inform me that they do not desire further contact.



Chief, Criminal Law Division
Office of the Staff Judge Advocate
XVIII Airborne Corps
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
In my e-mail, I had addressed each juror individually. Each had an opportunity to respond to me even if only to say that they wished not to communicate. Rather than face me head on like I deserve to be faced, these jurors have decided to have the Staff Judge Advocate speak for them.

The silence is deafening. Why did these officers and NCO’s feel that there was nothing they could say to me? The military judge’s gag order only limits the jurors from talking about their deliberations. What does this say for the current leadership in the Army? One of the values the Army loves to tout when it is convenient for them is personal courage which is egregiously absent in this instance.

* * *

All this serves as yet another reminder of the massive dereliction of duty that resulted in the murder of Phillip and Lou and that perpetuates this injustice. Where was the Army four years ago about enforcing good order and discipline? Where was the Army when my husband asked for its help? Instead it let two exemplary officers get brutally murdered while its members stood by and let it happen.

My husband has been failed by his Army peers, by the former president and vice president of the United States, our current secretary of state, Senator Lieberman and the Adjutant General of New York. The list keeps getting longer and longer--and all in the name of what? I am afraid to contact my representatives from the state of Virginia because I don't think that I can handle the list getting any longer.

There is no excuse for this morally reprehensible conduct—not for the verdict, not for the time up to the trial, not for the time after it and not for everything that allowed this pointless crime to happen in the first place.

I am told that I need to move on and put all this in the past. I know that as much is said to Barbara as well. Others seem to be able to live in a state of denial and without so much as an afterthought. Barbara and I continue to be less fortunate.