Pt. 14 in a series on the court martial of 1LT Clint Lorance
Former US Army 1LT Clint Lorance awaits word on his request for clemency after he was convicted of murder for giving his men permission to fire on “military-age” males of Afghan descent in a war zone in Afghanistan in July, 2012.
Explosive new evidence has surfaced, indicating the court martial was even more skewed than supporters of Lorance initially believed.
A memorandum related to Lorance’s request for clemency sheds some light on the three “military aged” males one key prosecution witness, a sergeant, called “civilians.” Although the jury panel and the judge apparently bought into the witness’ unsubstantiated claims, the new evidence suggests the sergeant may have had unfounded trust in the males who approached Lorance’s platoon on a motorcycle.
The request noted:
“The Army has in its possession evidence linking Afghan military-aged-males involved in this general court-martial to improvised explosive devices (IED) as well as IED attacks and terror networks in Afghanistan. The government failed to disclose this information to the chain-of-command, counsel for the defense, and the court-martial. These significant failures strike at the very heart of American due process and show that the government violated its discovery and disclosure obligations under Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 46, RCM 701, Army Regulation (AR) 27-26, and well-settled Supreme Court and military case law.”
Moments after Lorance approved his men engaging with the motorcycle riders, 1st platoon engaged and killed two more “military aged males” whose radio communications had been intercepted. Those males had stated “there are Americans on the roof—we want to do something to them.” No one participating in that engagement was charged with anything. Their actions, very similar to actions Lorance’s men took, were viewed as acceptable.
The memorandum also alleged the third rider in the Lorance case, now believed to be a man named Haji Karimullah, “is linked to at least one IED event in Kandahar” in the month following the engagement by Lorance’s men.
In an appendix sent with clemency request materials, there are “23 additional examples where the prosecution failed to disclose relevant information favorable to and/or helpful to the preparation of the defense.” Those examples include failures to inform by the judge at Lorance’s court martial. Ten “material legal errors” are noted as occurring during the court martial.
Some of the most damaging information came from a sergeant who witnessed the engagement, not firsthand, but by viewing it through a camera lens. That sergeant eventually set up a personal social media account on Facebook whereby he repeatedly criticized Lorance’s actions, claiming those interested in clearing Lorance were using the former lieutenant “as a pawn to attack President Obama.” Other absurd claims were also made on the page; it appears not to have been updated in quite some time. There is no identifying information regarding the page administrator.
The sergeant’s testimony at trial contained assumptions not supported by fact, such as claims about the males being “civilians” and a cell phone removed from one of the motorcycle riders. He said he assumed the phone had been in one of the riders’ pockets. Strangely, the sergeant confirmed the men had pointed out the platoon’s positions. Although the camera the sergeant said he viewed the engagement with could videotape, he didn’t. He said the camera was new and there were no DVDs.
After Obama took over the presidency, casualties in Afghanistan increased notably. Part of the problem stemmed from not knowing who the enemy was. Insider attacks became part of media’s reportage. The sergeant who testified confirmed that if US or Afghan troops came across someone with a weapon, engagement should not be undertaken unless there was “hostile intent.” That placed US troops in a position to make a judgment call and take unnecessary risks.
The memorandum points out missing medical records, photos taken by air support, sketches of the positions of the motorcycle riders, tapes of Wolfhound communications, photographs of the tower view of the village, emails between a 2LT and then-1LT Lorance, an identity card belonging to one of the riders, and evidence from all hard drives. The memorandum alleges these materials and more were never provided to Lorance’s defense.
A quick read of the transcript of Lorance’s trial suggests one of the most damaging witnesses seemed to have a personal dislike of Lorance, but that is admittedly a subjective conclusion.
The PFC who first reported the men to Lorance who could not actually see them himself confirmed he perceived the motorcycle as “possibly threatening” and when he fired—“based on ROE” and his “quick threat analysis”—the private believed he was “protecting friendly forces, both American” and Afghan. The private was given immunity by the prosecution.
The memorandum illustrates Lorance’s state of mind that day:
“Clint has written that he ‘always believed that those men intended to harm my soldiers, and if I had done nothing and some of my men had been wounded or killed, I would have been in a different kind of prison for the rest of my life.’”
The memorandum points out that investigative personnel in the Army “had IED terrorists standing before them” when they questioned various Afghans about the incident. One apparent Afghan, said the memorandum, “has a biometric ID…and is linked to an IED event.” Another by the same name was also linked to an IED event—15 of them, in fact.
Topping off the nondisclosures, Lorance’s supporters also learned a “Forensic Laboratory Examination Request” was completed. It was not included in the record. Nor was it provided to Lorance’s defense.
Lorance’s mother Anna appeared on Fox and Friends on Monday to share information about the new evidence and to ask for support for her son’s clemency request.
The trial transcript, including negative testimony against Lorance, begs questions. How many men didn’t return to their families because assumptions about “military-aged” males’ status were incorrect? How many men returned with significant life altering injuries because a platoon leader hesitated to engage?
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Dec. 15, 2014)
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION at Change.org!
New evidence & clemency information
Facebook page for Clint Lorance
Official website for Clint Lorance
Previous stories in Day on the Day series on Clint Lorance
Lorance a perfect example why…US military demoralized (Pt. 13)
For judgment call similar to president’s, soldier got 20 years in prison (Part 12)
New errors surface in Lorance trial: Evidence withheld (Pt. 11)
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)