Lorance case: Criminal justice advocacy needed for veterans

Pt. 6 in a series

The case of 1LT Clint Lorance isn’t the first to horrify me regarding how the US government railroaded a soldier who laid his life on the line. It probably won’t be the last. It is, however, one of the worst miscarriages of justice I have witnessed.

I came away from the trial transcript with the realization the government had no case. The prosecutor didn’t try the facts. He conducted an ongoing ad hominem attack against Lorance. 

The government told no one about immunity for witnesses who had fired the shots at men on a motorcycle. That is all we know about those men. No names, no nationalities, no ages, no forensics—nada. For all we know they could even be alive right now, sipping tea and planning their next attack on Western interests.

No instruction on self-defense was even given to the jury. How preposterous is that? The omission is unforgivable.

The whole trial, in a nutshell, was a complete fiasco designed to present the governments of Afghanistan and the US with a sacrificial lamb on the altar of political correctness. What the government basically told Lorance is he should risk the lives of his men and himself—a de facto suicide wish of sorts—or he could go to prison for making a judgment call about two “military-age” men on the type of motorcycle favored by the enemy near a village hostile to US interests in an area where, shortly after Lorance gave permission to engage those men, others who were definitely enemy were found.

Who were the men on the motorcycle? Why did the government refuse to find out? Why did it take six months for the government to charge Lorance? The whys of this case could fill a phone book.

TOLL ON THE FAMILY

Lorance had so much faith in his government, he expected justice. He honestly believed he would be treated fairly.

A family member told me Clint is helping others in the prison at Ft. Leavenworth with matters like writing parole letters and researching their cases. He attends church services and recruits others to join him. “Quitting is not an option—I can’t
has never been in his vocabulary.”

His best hope is for Brig. Gen. Richard D. Clarke, who became commander of the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg (North Carolina) in early October, to grant clemency.

Should that not happen, the emotional and financial burden will increase beyond already difficult levels. Lorance’s family is middle class like mine. I can’t imagine the frustration of trying to come up with resources to prove your son is innocent when the record shows he did not commit a crime much less commit murder.

LORANCE ACTED WITHIN ROE

There are many troubling parts in the trial transcript. One that stays with me involves the judgment call on what constituted a threat in an area where in previous months, nearly every patrol was attacked. One troop commander testified about the challenges in applying US Rules of Engagement in a life or death situation where you can’t tell the enemy from the local population. Add in the fact the village Lorance’s men were near was perceived as friendly to the enemy. The former commander testified:

“The definition of hostile intent and hostile act is based on the ground. It becomes a decision about—at that point on—in time on the ground of what you understand of the threat…It’s a complicated situation.”

Lorance had between 3-5 seconds to make his decision as platoon leader. He based that decision on information given him by men in his group who could actually see the men on the motorcycle approaching. The private who could see the men answered affirmatively regarding the perceived threat:

“’Q. Based on what you had available to you, you saw this as a threat and you felt an obligation as an American soldier to protect friendly forces…correct?’
A. Yes.”

The information the private disclosed was key to Lorance’s decision to permit his men to engage. How the jury panel missed that mountain of reasonable doubt is incomprehensible.

I looked for military criminal justice advocacy organizations and couldn’t find any. I did find groups that help veterans with legal matters related to their benefits.

I didn’t find any organizations that would help a veteran who was railroaded by his government and now sits at Leavenworth, staring 20 years in the face. There’s a critical need for an organization like this. Perhaps by drawing attention to his case, we will succeed in convincing others to not only lend their support to Clint Lorance, but to support the concept of an organization like that as well.

The government should right a self-inflicted wrong and clear a political prisoner wrongfully imprisoned not in some third world banana republic, but right here in the USA. #FreeClintLorance. It’s the right thing to do.

Featured Photo: From Facebook page for Clint Lorance


Related

Official pages for Clint Lorance
http://www.freeclintlorance.com/

Previous stories in series on Clint Lorance

After controversial trial, soldier’s fate rests… (Pt. 5)
http://dayontheday.com/2014/11/03/after-controversial-trial-soldiers-fate-rests-in-hands-of-new-commander/

Confusion at heart of Lorance case… (pt. 4)
http://dayontheday.com/2014/10/31/confusion-at-heart-of-lorance-case-apparent-afghan-decent-sic/

Government secret: Witnesses had immunity (Pt. 3)
http://dayontheday.com/2014/10/30/government-secret-in-lorance-trial-witnesses-had-immunity/

Political prisoner Clint Lorance… (Pt. 2)
http://dayontheday.com/2014/10/29/political-prisoner-clint-lorance-wrongly-convicted/

Dilemma facing boots on the ground (Pt. 1)
http://dayontheday.com/2014/09/19/dilemma-facing-boots-on-the-ground-meet-1lt-lorance/

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Nov. 4, 2014)

About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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