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.

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