Friday, December 5, 2008

Webster Smith Deserves same Appeal Rights as Enemy Combatants.

WASHINGTON — In the early 1990s, Norbert B. MacLean III, then a young Navy cryptologist, was court-martialed for writing bad checks, even though he says the evidence against him was far from overwhelming.

Mr. MacLean says he believes that decisions on his case were influenced by the fact that he had charged a superior with harassment. His faith in the military justice system lost, he says, he pleaded guilty and accepted a dishonorable discharge before discovering he could not appeal to the Supreme Court.

“I felt horrified,” said Mr. MacLean, a dual citizen of the United States and Australia. “Because I had chosen to wear a military uniform, I was being treated like a second-class citizen.”

If Congress returns to Washington in early December, it may consider legislation that would give service members the right to petition the Supreme Court.

Supporters say increasing access to the Supreme Court for court-martialed service members could be a first step in updating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which went into effect in 1951 and has not been changed by Congress in major ways in the last 25 years.

“When the Uniform Code of Military Justice was established, it was cutting edge,” said Mr. MacLean, who has temporarily moved from Australia to the San Diego area to lobby Congress. “A lot has changed.”

Robert E. Reed, an associate deputy general counsel at the Pentagon, said the legislation would increase the burdens on the Supreme Court and Defense Department lawyers, adding that supporters were not taking a “panoramic view.” A White House spokesman, Carlton Carroll, said “our current line of thinking is close to” the Pentagon’s.

Under current law, some cases in the military justice system can automatically be appealed to the Supreme Court, including those in which a service member receives the death penalty and others that have been reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the civilian court that oversees the military justice system. But if the appeals court declines to hear a case, which happens on average more than 80 percent of the time, the service member cannot petition the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Congress has granted even captured enemy combatants greater access to the Supreme Court.

In September, the House approved a bill that would allow court-martialed service members to petition the Supreme Court, even if the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces would not hear their case. A bill with the same language has been introduced in the Senate, but it is unclear whether action will be taken before the new Congress is sworn in next year.

The American Bar Association and the Military Officers Association of America have said they support the legislation.
“The right to at least file with the Supreme Court should be fundamental,” said H. Thomas Wells Jr., president of the American Bar Association. “The government can, and the service member can’t. That doesn’t seem to be a fair application.”

But Mr. Reed estimated that the Supreme Court and lawyers at the Pentagon could face hundreds of new petitions a year if Congress passed the measure.

“A lot of those supporters are only looking at this as a motherhood, apple pie sort of issue,” he said. “There’s a logic and a rationale to this. We’re not just trying to be mean and difficult for the defendants.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that the increased workload for the Pentagon and the Supreme Court would cost around $1 million a year.

Supporters of the bill say that the estimate is wildly inflated and that the number of petitions prompted by the legislation could be just one or two dozen.

“It’s baloney — and I would’ve used a different word if I could,” said Stephen A. Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University and general counsel for the National Institute of Military Justice. “The increased workload would be virtually nothing.”

It is hard to say what sort of cases might advance to the Supreme Court if the legislation passes. Supporters say the law’s greatest contributions may be symbolic.

“It’s a symbol that a service member has the exact same rights as anyone else,” said Walter T. Cox III, who served as chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and later headed a commission that proposed changes in the military justice system. “That seems worth opening the door.”

Mr. Cox and other supporters hope Congress will consider other modifications to the system, like changing the appeals process and examining whether lawyers in the system are adequately trained. He hopes to convene a second commission that would look at some of those issues in the next few months.

For his part, Mr. Reed said many of the criticisms of the military justice system themselves were dated.

“It’s the same old people with the same old arguments and the same propositions,” he said. “If they do have some new ideas that they think could be beneficial, I hope they forward them to the department.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

450 E Street, Northwest

Washington, D.C. 20442-0001


United States v. Webster M. Smith, No. 08-0719/CG

(Appellee) (Appellant)

Counsel for Appellant: Ronald C. Machen, Esq.

Counsel for Appellee: LT Emily P. Reuter, USCG

Case Summary: GCM conviction of going from place of duty, attempting to disobey an order, sodomy, extortion, and indecent assault. Granted issue questions whether the military judge violated Appellant’s constitutional right to confront his accusers by limiting his cross-examination of [SR], the government’s only witness, on three of the five charges.

NOTE: Counsel for each side will be allotted 20 minutes to present oral argument in this case.


ichbinalj said...

(5 Dec)The Supreme Court today said it would hear the case of accused al-Qaeda operative Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri.
Marri, a Qatari national who was living legally in Peoria, Ill., when he was arrested in late 2001, was subsequently turned over to the military and has spent more than five years in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. The Bush administration says it has evidence he trained at an al-Qaeda camp and was sent to the United States, but he is being held without charges.

ichbinalj said...

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond ruled in July that the president had the power to detain Marri under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted by Congress in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But the court also said he could challenge his designation as an enemy combatant before a district court in South Carolina.
Marri is the only person being held in the United States under such a designation.

ichbinalj said...

Marri, a graduate student when he was arrested in December 2001, is the last of three designated enemy combatants held since 2001. His case is most similar to that of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen originally accused of attempting to explode a radiological "dirty bomb" in the United States, because both were arrested inside the United States.
But Padilla was transferred to civilian custody to face terrorism charges before the Supreme Court could take up the military's power to detain him.

The case is Al-Marri v. Pucciarelli.

ichbinalj said...

A Presidential pardon granted posthumously in recent years was given to Henry O. Flipper, the first Black graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Flipper was drummed out of the Army after white officers accused him of embezzling about $3,800 from commissary funds. Flipper initially discovered the funds missing from his custody and concealed their disappearance from superiors, hoping the money would return. Clinton gave Flipper a full pardon in 1999.
With this latest batch, which includes forgiveness for convictions ranging from gun and drug violations to bank and mail fraud, Bush has granted a total of 190 pardons and nine commutations. That's fewer than half as many as Presidents Clinton or Ronald Reagan issued during their two terms.
Well-known names were not on Bush's holiday pardon list. There have been efforts to get Bush to pardon former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who was convicted in 2000 with four others in a scheme to rig riverboat casino licensing; disgraced track star Marion Jones, who lied about using steroids; Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, former U.S. Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting a drug smuggler in 2005 and trying to cover it up; and Michael Milken, junk bond king who was convicted of securities fraud.
In his most high-profile official act of forgiveness, Bush saved Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, from serving any prison time in the case of the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
Libby was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice. Bush could still grant him a full pardon, although Libby has not applied for one.

ichbinalj said...

WASHINGTON – In his final acts of clemency, President George W. Bush
on 19 Jan 2009 commuted the prison sentences of two former U.S. Border
Patrol agents whose convictions for shooting a Mexican drug dealer
ignited fierce debate about illegal immigration.

Bush's decision to commute the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose
Compean, who tried to cover up the shooting, was welcomed by both
Republican and Democratic members of Congress. They had long argued
that the agents were merely doing their jobs, defending the American
border against criminals. They also maintained that the more than
10-year prison sentences the pair was given were too harsh.

ichbinalj said...

This entry was posted by on June 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.
QUOTE: "We were notified today that Webster Smith, the first cadet to ever be courts-martialed at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has had his site blocked by the U.S. Coast Guard. Smiths website “Friends of Webster” is not accessible inside the Coast Guard domain. We reviewed the site and couldn’t find anything in our cursory review that would warrant being blocked."