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.
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: