Puppetista of Judge Head at support rally for Ehren Watada in February outside Fort Lewis
Yesterday, in a military courtroom in Olympia, Washington at Fort Lewis, the latest in a long string of legal injustices took place during the preliminary hearing for the second court marshal for First Lieutenant Ehren Watada. Judge Head, who also ruled over Ehren's court marshal in February which resulted in a mistrial, dismissed the motion of double jeopardy submitted by his attorneys. (Ehren's website is Thank You Lt.org)
In order to understand this ruling, one must understand also what is at stake for Ehren. He is currently facing up to six years in prison for not only refusing to deploy to Iraq, but also for his public speaking out against the war in his own defense. Last June Ehren went public with the following statement:
After this public announcement, he went on to speak publicly in other events, most notably, his appearance at a Veteran's for Peace Rally in August. He also gave an interview to Sara Olson. Ehren was charged with missing in movement and conduct unbecoming of an officer based on his public appearances as well as interviews given. Two of those charges, those stemming from the written interviews, were dropped at the time of the first court marshal because Ehren stipulated to having made those statements in order to prevent Sara Olson and Dahr Jamail (who had simply transcribed and published one of Ehren's speeches) from having to go against journalistic priveledge when the government subpoenaed them to testify against Ehren. Ehren also stipulated to missing in movement, simply because for anyone following this case at all, one should know that Ehren missed movement purposefully based on his firm belief that the war is not only immoral, but also illegal. Ehren NEVER denied or plead innocent to missing in movement.
During pretrial motions for the first court marshal, Judge Head disallowed ALL of those witnesses who had been subpoenaed by the defense except for one, Ehren's commanding officer who was to be a character witness. Those witnesses dismissed by Judge Head were those who were to testify to the illegality of the Iraq war as well as to Ehren's innocence in any wrong doing leading up to the court marshal. So stripped of his defense, during that first court marshal, only Ehren himself and a character witness were left for the defense. ( Read, "The Watada Mistrial, What Really Happened" by Bill Simpich who attended the trial)
For those of us sitting in the courtroom that day waiting for the proceedings to begin, time wore on. What was to begin at 8:00 soon became much later. When the judge finally appeared, at that time, it became clear what had gone on behind closed doors. Judge Head began his questioning of Ehren by asking him if he understood that he had admitted to missing in movement. Ehren replied that yes he understood and there was a reason WHY he missed movement. At that point the judge asked Ehren to withdraw his stipulation which Ehren and his attorney Eric Seitz refused. Seitz INSISTED his client had a defense as to why he missed movement and they were prepared to put that defense on. Then the judge over the next hour or more, stated his own inclination to declare a mistrial due to a "misunderstanding between the prosecution and the defense" and that the trial would have to stop because "all parties were not on the same page as to the understanding of the issues". He then ordered all parties back to closed chambers. When all parties came out, it was the prosecution who asked for the mistrial at which time Judge Head quickly granted the motion.
The overflow room where the press and 42 "guests of the court" was in absolute dumbstruck awe of what had just occurred. Through Judge Head's manipulations, not only was Ehren not allowed to testify, but he also stated that Ehren would be retried at a later date. That date was finally set for June 23, but the preliminary hearing including the motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds was dismissed yesterday by the SAME judge who manipulated the first court marshal. Furthermore, Judge Head, refused to recuse himself from further proceedings in the case. The charges which were dismissed in the first court marshal have also been reintroduced.
Just what is Judge Head seeking to silence? Ehren's testimony that the war in Iraq is illegal per our own Constitution which is bound by treaty to the Nuremburg Principles which deny the right to wage pre-emptive warfare, a war of aggression and a war against the peace. The military oath which is taken binds one's duty to the CONSTITUTION not to illegal military orders. You can find Marjorie Cohn's speech which she gave last year in Ehren's defense after he came out with the above videotaped public statement by Ehren speaking to these issues. (current President of the National Lawyer's Guild) here.
The weight of many years in prison is sitting on First Lieutenant Ehren Watada's shoulders for daring to speak out against this war. He is speaking for ALL of us who know this war is not only immoral, but illegal as well. Ehren Watada is a TRUE American hero, the kind of man who comes rarely and who should be supported by all.
Please, if you have not yet signed the petition in support of Ehren, please go here.
Following is the article from yesterday concerning the preliminary hearing in Ehren's second court marshal:
Judge: Army can try Watada again for refusing to go to Iraq
By Associated Press
Watada's new lawyers, Kenneth Kagan and James Lobsenz, immediately filed notice they will appeal that double jeopardy ruling to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Arlington, Va.
Watada is charged with missing his unit's deployment in June 2006 and with conduct unbecoming an officer for comments he made about President Bush and the Iraq war. If convicted, he could be sentenced to six years in prison and be dishonorably discharged.
The lieutenant contends the war is illegal and he would be party to war crimes if he participated. His first trial ended in a mistrial.
The military judge, Lt. Col. John Head, presided over the first trial in February and ended it after questioning whether Watada understood a pretrial agreement he had signed. Head also refused Friday to disqualify himself from the case.
Head also ruled against Watada's defense team when they contended his decision to declare a mistrial in the first court-martial was wrong.
The developments are likely to delay the start of the second trial, which had been scheduled to begin July 23.
Watada, who is based at Fort Lewis, continues to perform administrative duties.
Kagan argued Friday that Head should step away from the case because the judge has created the impression that his mind is made up on some issues. The lawyer noted an e-mail that Head's supervisor sent the judge in February, indicating she believed the mistrial did not create double-jeopardy issues and that a second court-martial could proceed. Kagan said the e-mail suggested there was pressure on Head to rule a certain way.
Head denied he has any preconceived notions.
Lobsenz told the judge he erred in the first trial by not exploring alternatives to calling off the trial midway through. Head ruled against Watada on that issue without comment.
He is expected to issue a written decision early next week. The judge is also expected to rule on admissibility of evidence, including whether Watada may call witnesses to testify about the legality of the war. Head excluded such witnesses in the first court-martial.
For other articles concerning Ehren Watada written here: The Iraq War Put on Trial: Citizen's Tribunal Concerning Ehren Watada, Ehren Watada on Democracy Now,
What if They Gave a War And Nobody Came? Why I Support Ehren Watada, Ehren Watada's Pretrial Hearing Outcome (first court marshal in February), What the Trial About Ehren Watada Says About Us As a Nation and a People, My Prayers to You, Ehren Rosa and Bob,(includes Democracy Now interview with Sara Olson and Dahr Jamail), All Things Watada,
Short Note From the Watada Trial, Notes From Inside the Watada Trial, TACOMA!! (pictures from the court marshal in February) Retrial in Watada Case Unlikely (Video of Eric Seitz, Ehren's attorney for the first court marshal, imediately following the mistrial)Darrel Anderson Raps in Tacoma ,New Trial Date Set For First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, Carlos Latuff's Cartoon Says It All About Ehren Watada,