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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Notes From Inside The Watada Mistrial

Currently I am sitting in the courtroom awaiting the trial’s opening for the day. The first day we were here I assumed laptops would not be allowed accept for the press. Yesterday I noticed that laptops for the “invited guests” are allowed. So with a great deal of help from others here, hat-tip to Nina, I am going to do my best to write what is happening. Ehren is going to be first on the stand this morning after any legal stipulations are gotten out of the way. Then after that, an army captain currently serving in Iraq, has flown in to serve as a character witness on Ehren’s behalf. After that we will be hearing closing arguments and the case will go to the panel for their decision. Please excuse typos or quickness, because I am going to do my best to cover what is being said today, as First Lieutenant Ehren Watada takes the stand to testify on his own behalf. I won’t be doing too much editing either as this will be raw coming as best I can and as quickly as I can to you my readers. I have to leave to Sea-Tac at 3:00 so I won’t be covering after that. I apologize for not getting the first two days out but our time has been taken with the campaign itself and as I said yesterday, my room-mate was asleep and I could not turn on the light to transcribe the notes here. We have been keeping LONG hours, up EARLY in the morning to get here to get our passes. Security is much tighter today and yesterday the press was told they were not allowed to fraternize with any of the activists or talk to us. They were even told not to go eat at the same place we were eating and to avoid all contact. I really have to wonder why this was told to them because as I read the new’s accounts of what occurred yesterday many key statements in the testimony were excluded in the press accounts. For instance, when asked by Eric Seitz why he insisted on issuing deployment orders to Ehren when he deemed him unfit as an officer for his statements and attempted resignation since January of last year, Lt. Col William James could not give an answer, in fact he ignored the question altogether. James also testified that he counseled Ehren not to make a “young man’s mistake”, based on emotion. Seitz asked him if he took Ehren’s request to resign or be reassigned seriously James said “Up until that time Watada had been an exempliary officer” and that he felt that Ehrens’ requests and statements were purely based on emotion. So in other words (my take) if you question, if you do all you can to follow military rules and do not agree with those higher than you, you are simply being “emotional” and are dismissed.
10:10: We were told about a half an hour ago that the proceedings were to begin at 10:00. No reason was given. Now we were just told it would be another half hour. No reason given. 10:25, they just closed the doors to our room and we are awating the judge walking in to be sen on the live feed. 10:42, the judge just entered.

(I do not claim to be a court reporter, but this is what I was able to type as fast and as accurately as I can)

JUDGE: there have been issues raised with defense counsel,regarding conflict with stipulation of fact.

Seitz: You are not entitled to ask my client questions at any time. If you insist on doing so, I will advise my client to not to answer the question. It has always been my client intention to not only miss movement, but it was based on Intent, that the war was illegal. You have ruled that the order which was given to him was legal, we contend it is not legal, there is nothing in his stipulation that goes to intent. It has always been the intention to follow the instructions to follow the instrurctions given him, there is nothing in there that has been proven. We did not plead guilty because there is nothing in stipulation going to that.

Prosecution: His argument is irrelevant

Seitz: There is nothing in the stipulation that is contradictory to what was given to us.

Prosecutor: The accused willingly missed movement.

Judge: That’s why I feel I need to reopen the inquiry, because your client doesn’t seem to understand.

Seitz; He does UNDERSTAND, but you have undercut our ability to defend our client. You MUST submit the questions to us. This is NOT allowed at this point in the case.

Judge: I am going to reopen the inquiry. COUNSEL SIT DOWN

Seitz: I will not sit, I will stand.

Judge:. Judge: Mistrial is in order, government has no case because you will not stipulate to fact. We will have to set a new trial date.

Judge: When you come back, let me know if you will direct your client to answer.
Recall members at 12:30, stand-by 12:15

Judge: Do you remember what I asked you before regarding the stipulation?
Paragraph 4, page 7: What does it mean that you intentionally did not board the aircraft.

Ehren: Your honor, in that sentence, is that intentionally missed movement because I believe it would lead me to participate in war crimes in an illegal war.

Judge: Do you believe you had a duty to make that movement?

Ehren: No

Judge: What do you think this paragraph means?

Ehren: I have always believed I had a reason to miss movement. That has been my contention all along that I have the legal and moral right

Judge: Do you believe that paragraph 4 gives every reason ?(why you missed movement)That’s the problem I am having the problem, because you don’t think you had the duty, regardless, what do YOU believe?

Ehren: Your honor I did not miss boarding the aircraft out of negligence or because it was a mistake, I was being asked to do something I could not do.

Judge: Let me read to you what you read before: the government has the duty to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you missed movement, by stipulating that you missed movement, that you stipulated and that relieved the government’s burden. What did you understand that to mean?

Ehren: I do understand, that I stipulated, but there is additional evidence that goes to my defense.

Prosecutor: His motives are irrelevent,

Judge: Do you believe the government proved by stipulation, that the burden was removed.

Seitz: That does not mean that there was not motive, which you have stripped us of.

Judge:That is a completely different matter

Seitz: I believe that the government believes that, but our interpretation is different.

Judge: (to the prosecution) (questions how this happened that there is this misunderstanding.

Prosecutor: I wasn’t present, I didn’t do this. (this prosecutor is new on the case)

Judge: Did the government enter into this agreement?

Prosecutor: We believe that paragraph 4 provides all the facts, we have evidence. They believe they have a defense, we disagree.

Judge: We cannot have disagreement as to what the pretrial agreements mean. I am having problems, we do not have a meeting of the minds, no contract, am I missing something here?

Prosecutor: I think there is a meeting, there is an agreement, the defendant wants to raise the why, of course we disagree?J.

Judge: He believes he has a defense, whether or not it is valid, is not the point!

Prosecutor: I don’t see it, you can decide.

Judge: But as to this defense, you have to treat it as a guilt admission, you don’t shortcut the system

Prosecutor: I don’t see how this is shortcutting the system. I don’t see it , he has plead guilty

Seitz: He has always pled NOT
guilty, but stipulated to the fact. He believes he is entitled to plead not guilty

Judge: He has stipulated to fact

Seitz: We will not come to the same conclusion as you

Judge: How does his subjective belief fit into this? He did this deliberately, he has made this argument all along

Judge: I understand, he stipulated to the material elements.

Seitz: He stipulated to the facts, but not to intent.

Prosecutor: We need additional time. At least 15 minutes.

Judge: Do you understand my problem? There is a material misunderstanding. You believe that it fits a guilt. The defense does not believe that

Prosecutor: What part doesn’t he understand?

Judge: That he had a duty, one the intent element, Lt Watada, didn’t think he: he had a duty, because he doesn’t have the legal duty because he believes the war is unlawful, is that what you believe Ehren?

Ehren:“Yes your honor”.

Judge: It’s the intent element, it’s 12:45, give you 15 minutes to come back, with a meeting of the minds, I see no meeting of the minds, an inconsistancy of fact, I cannot accept the prosecutors’ evidence 4, as it stands. We will have to set a retrial date. Back in 15.

Judge: What does that mean to you, that document?(addressing Ehren)

Ehren: It means to get on the bus and board the plane.

Judge: What did you understand that to mean? What does that mean to you?

Ehren: To me sir in means to participate in war crimes.

Judge: Do you believe it (what you signed admitting missing in movement) is a stip to guilt?

Ehren: No (S) only sitipulation to fact.

Judge: How can I accept this when the defense doesn’t accept it as a stipulation of guilt?

Prosecutor: If he has evidence to present, then of course he could present that evidence

Judge: Stipulation of fact, please read further. This is a stip of fact, as to charge there of,the defense doesn’t agree to.

Prosecutor: It is stip of fact

Judge: Prosecutor is disputing stip to fact. Close the case, do you wish to reopen it, at this point you don’t have evidence? You have rested your case

Prosecutor: We are not prepared, we need a recess,

Judge: I will allow you to reopen it because no defense has been presented.

Prosecutor: if we were to procede forward, what would the instuctions be to the jury concerning this

Judge: I would instruct to ignore it. (what has occurred today)

Prosecutor: 30 minutes requested.

Judge: Let’s take up the stipulation of fact on the record, I do believe this is a stipulation of guilt, so I agree, they have the right to withdraw.

Seitz: No I will not withdraw (refuses to take back the stipulation of FACT that Ehren missed movement, this does NOT go to intent)

Judge: I will entertain motion to mistrial, there is room to come to an agreement which will allow for the trial to be taken up again. Even a tangible reading, every statement, I did not intend to employ. What we are left with I can instruct the government, should you wish to go forward.

Prosecutor: move to mistrial.

Judge: March 19 set.

Prosecutor: We have other trials, we don’t have time

Judge: You’ll have to GET ready, give good cause to delay.

Prosecutor: Lt. Watada is not the only case, at least wait till May ?th, that is a possibility,

Judge: No I will set March , come back later and give good reason, do you have witnesses available 19th March

Prosecutor: Yes In writing please

Judge: Yes absolutely, I will rule in writing. The date is Feb, 7, counsel, when do you think you can prepare for this date? Check your office,

Seitz: Won’t be back in office til Feb 21, give me til Feb 23 to respond

Judge: Cpt Kim, will you be available? Give you til 23 of Febrary to respond. That will be the due date for any continuances. This case moves to the top of the docket. And, if you have other army cases who need your attention, you need to contact those judges concerning this matter. This issue needs to be solved soon. You are not free to talk to anyone, thank you for your service.
You may not talk to any one.

The government motion to grant mistrial is granted. Motion to resume March 19,

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