Pt. 11 in a series
Links to all articles in the series and to websites about the case are at the end of this article.
More errors have surfaced in the court martial of 1LT Clint Lorance. Lorance’s story is one for the record books for a number of reasons including eight critical legal errors already noted.
Lorance’s US Army court martial was covered moderately by media whose stories often read like a summary of the prosecution’s case. No media questioned the identity of the “military-aged” males of “apparent Afghan” descent advancing on a motorcycle and then on foot. The males drew fire from Lorance’s men in July, 2012.
Lorance was leading his second patrol after assuming leadership; the men were in an area known for hostility to US and Afghan national troops. Only days before a US soldier had been shot in the neck in the village nearby.
The entire context of Lorance’s location was omitted from media coverage. Lorance’s clemency documents explain the setting. When Lorance led the men on the first patrol, “his element received small arms fire from ‘historical enemy firing positions’ while returning to their outpost.” The attack was nothing new. “Over the preceding months nearly every patrol was attacked.”
Context isn’t the only thing media missed. None questioned the identities of the males Lorance believed were enemy. Nor did any media ask questions about testimony given by members of Lorance’s platoon—they had received immunity because they feared facing charges.
Media described the males of “apparent Afghan decent [sic]” as civilians. There was no basis in fact for assuming the males were civilians.
NEW ERRORS FOUND
Now two more legal errors have been found, and they are critical to Lorance’s defense.
The government prosecuting Lorance didn’t just withhold information about witness culpability and immunity. The prosecutor allegedly did not disclose additional key evidence.
For example, the Criminal Investigation Division logged activities like the government getting online sites to “freeze” Lorance’s accounts so the CID could obtain his “personal emails, his Facebook posts, and his emails from the Army’s email system [AKO].”
The government used some of Lorance’s emails in an attempt to locate witnesses to build their case. The CID also ran background checks on witnesses. One note in the CID’s investigative log, according to defense findings, shows that “derogatory information was found on two of the prosecution’s main witnesses against Clint.” Those witnesses testified under guaranteed immunity.
The government was required to present that evidence about the witnesses to the defense. Apparently the jury panel bought into the credibility of the witnesses based purely on subjectivity rather than fact.
The government also allegedly did not provide the “emails it used to investigate Lorance’s personal life.”
As a summary from an insider indicated, “The government, by and through the prosecutor, has an obligation, even if the defense does not request it, to turn over and give the defense just about everything they have compiled in the investigation.” The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld that standard, and the rulings “have been incorporated into the Manual for Courts-Martial.”
None of the errors in Lorance’s court martial have been covered by media. This is more common than Americans may realize. Day on the Day is aware media also lapsed in covering trials of three Navy SEALs, a young Army captain, and an independent contractor from Afghanistan. All those men were brought up on flimsy charges but their cases had positive outcomes for the defendants.
LORANCE HAD ONLY SECONDS TO MAKE A JUDGMENT CALL
Lorance’s story has been covered by Sean Hannity. On Friday Lorance’s attorney and his mother talked with the show’s host in an effort to tell the real story of a young lieutenant whose order to engage “military-aged” males of “apparent Afghan decent [sic]” landed him in prison. He is serving a 20 year sentence on murder and other charges.
The young lieutenant made a judgment call spanning seconds in hopes of protecting his platoon. For his dedication and service, he didn’t even get a fair trial. Cases like Lorance’s will surely undermine enthusiasm for those who consider serving in the US military.
To this day the government has never disclosed the actual identities, nationalities, or status of the alleged victims. The third male on the motorcycle ran away, to the village and out the back. Lorance believed the men were enemy, and that belief led to his actions which were technically aligned with US rules of engagement.
A summary of the case at Lorance’s advocacy website included this:
“It is important to consider that, though the men Lorance ordered killed did not have any weapons on them, their motorcycle was taken away by another Afghan a few minutes after the engagement. Only weeks later in a similar area of Afghanistan, a two wheeled motorcycle was driven into a market where US Soldiers were patrolling and the Taliban on the bike detonated a deadly amount of explosives which were affixed to the bike. The leader of that patrol did not take the actions Lorance did, and his patrol suffered heavy casualties that day.”
No one knows what the male who fled Lorance’s men might have taken with him.
Now we are aware that two prosecution witnesses’ records raised red flags regarding “derogatory information.” We are also aware of allegations the prosecution did not present information gleaned from searching Lorance’s personal accounts. Did any of that evidence present exculpatory potential? We don’t know.
Lorance is awaiting a response to his appeal for clemency.
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/Nov. 18, 2014)
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Facebook page for Clint Lorance
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Previous stories in Day on the Day series on Clint Lorance
Doocy’s SEAL interview addresses issue in Lorance trial (Pt. 10)
Soldier’s mother and brother appeal for clemency (Pt. 9)
On Veterans Day, Lorance waits for justice… (Pt. 8)
After error-plagued court martial, soldier needs support (Pt. 7)
Criminal justice advocacy needed for veterans (Pt. 6)
After controversial trial, soldier’s fate rests… (Pt. 5)
Confusion at heart of Lorance case… (Pt. 4)
Government secret: Witnesses had immunity (Pt. 3)
Political prisoner Clint Lorance… (Pt. 2)
Dilemma facing boots on the ground (Pt. 1)