“Threatening comments” by judge result in dismissal of charges

On January 1, 2019, a physical altercation allegedly ensued between three American marines from the Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and an American defense contractor outside of a bar in Iraq. The defense contractor allegedly instigated the confrontation.

The contractor is believed to have been knocked unconscious and later succumbed to complications brought on by his intoxicated state. Subsequently, the three marines were charged with negligent homicide, involuntary manslaughter, obstructing justice and violating orders.

Claims of unlawful command influence (UCI)

In a ruling to dismiss all charges against one of the marines, the court ruled in favor of the defendant. It is alleged that the senior judge advocate in the original ruling made comments that were threatening and amounted to UCI. The comments were directed at the designated defense counsel for one of the “MARSOC 3.”

It is claimed that the judge made comments suggesting that he “knew exactly who the defense counsel was” and that they “were not protected”. Subsequently, the counsel for the accused formed the impression that his career was in jeopardy should he continue to represent the Marine in the case.

The case highlights the wider issue that all accused parties are entitled to a defense that is free from unjust interference. The remaining two servicemen also brought an argument forward seeking to have their charges dismissed. If the statements made by the initial judge were true, then the defendants had been denied their right to a defense that was protected from outside influences.

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