Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fox News: Army Widow Lives with 'Unending Shock'

Tonight, Fox News ran a story on the slaying of my late husband, Capt. Phillip Esposito and 1st Lt. Louis Allen at the hands of Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, a soldier under my husband's command.

I asked Fox to publish my own thoughts on the case, and my essay appears here [link] and below:

My husband, Phillip Esposito, was a captain in the Army. Imagine a man whose conscience made him see evil for what it is and whose compassion made him the protector of others. That was the man Phillip was. I loved him deeply, and we shared the joy of one daughter together.

On June 7, 2005, Phillip was murdered while deployed in Iraq. He and 1st Lieutenant Louis Allen were killed with a claymore anti-personnel mine that tore through their flesh and shattered their bones. Phillip died almost immediately; Louis was conscious and lingered for a few hours before finally succumbing upon the operating table.

I would learn that military investigators believed that Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, a soldier under my husband’s command, had set the blast in order to forestall Phillip from having Martinez drummed out of the military for professional incompetence. By seeking to have him fired, Phillip had threatened Martinez’s livelihood—and thus his fragile ego. I live today with the unending shock that this was Martinez’s alleged motive for the destruction of my husband’s life.

Over time, I came to learn that Phillip’s fellow soldiers had opportunity to prevent his death. Stunningly, prior to the murders, Martinez had told practically anyone who would listen that he hated my husband and that he wished to harm him. Under proper military discipline, Martinez would have been punished for these slurs and threats, but here, they went unreported. In fact, I was shocked to discover that Martinez enjoyed outright sympathy from his fellow soldiers, even as he spoke that my husband needed to die.

With his threats and the circumstances of the case lined up against him, it seemed impossible that Martinez could escape punishment for his crimes, yet in 2008, a military court-martial nevertheless voted to completely acquit Martinez of any responsibility for the death of my husband and Lt. Allen.

How could this come to pass? The answers here are many. The military judge administering the court martial allowed a married couple who were steadfastly opposed to the death penalty to sit in judgment; this after the husband indicated that he would vote to acquit even a guilty man if the penalty was death. One juror stated that he had been falsely accused of a crime by military investigators and that investigators routinely lie in order to secure convictions, and he too was allowed to sit in judgment. Martinez’s statement to investigators—the basis of his being their key suspect—was found inadmissible because Martinez had been improperly arrested by military police. If mercy to the wicked is treason to the good, at the court-martial of Alberto Martinez, there was mercy enough to spare.

I add up all the injuries, from the murder of my husband, to the fact that his death was needless and preventable, to the acquittal of his accused killer, to the pain our daughter and I feel in the cruelty of Phillip’s absence, and it forces me to take stock of life in a way that I never imagined. If we, as Americans, fail to learn the necessary lessons from the deaths of Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen, we permit these two men to have died in vain. These soldiers have been denied legal justice. A larger moral justice demands that we, as a people, correct for it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bozicevich is found guilty, but the Army stonewalls

Yesterday, a military court martial found U.S. Army Sergeant Joseph Bozicevich guilty of murdering Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson and Sgt. Wesley Durbin in Iraq in 2008, although the military panel failed to deliver the unanimous verdict necessary to sentence Bozicevich to death. As always, my sincere condolences go to the families of the victims, and I continue to hope that Bozicevich's conviction helps to bring them closer to the justice and peace that they deserve.

Beyond the obvious horror of Bozicevich's crimes, there is one aspect of the court martial that I find jarring, particularly in the face of my lawsuit this spring against the Army for access to trial records from the court martial of my late husband’s accused killer. In the Bozicevich court martial, the Army is now refusing to release the name of an expert witness after the military judge ruled that the expert’s testimony was inadmissible. According to Marisa Taylor of McClatchy Newspapers,

Military Judge Col. Tara Osborn handed down the ruling on the testimony Monday after the prosecution belatedly revealed that the analyst with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory had made a mistake on a proficiency test.

The expert was identified as both Monika and Monica Wilk Garcia in military documents. An Army spokesman said the military doesn't believe her name should be publicized although she had testified in a public court proceeding. As a result, the spokesman refused to confirm the spelling of her first name. [emphasis mine].

So here we see that even after the Army settled my lawsuit against it for its failure to provide names from the trial of my late husband’s accused killer, the Army nevertheless continues to operate as if its attempts to stonewall key names and facts stated in open court is permitted under the law. It is not permitted, and it appears that yet again the Army needs to be made aware of it.