Judge limits Manning’s whistle-blower defense, pretrial confinement nears 1,000 days
After partially granting the government’s motion to preclude motive from the trial, Judge Lind heard arguments from both parties for the defense’s motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial. Today is Bradley Manning’s 964th day in jail without trial. Manning returns to court February 26, 2013.
By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network. January 16, 2013.
Military Judge Denise Lind ruled that PFC Bradley Manning will be able to show evidence of his noble motives at potential sentencing; however, during the merits portion of the trial, to decide guilt or innocence, the defense’s abilities are very narrow. Then, she ruled, the defense will only be able to discuss Manning’s motive to show that he didn’t know giving information to WikiLeaks meant he was “dealing with the enemy.” This limits the defense’s ability to prove Manning was a whistle-blower when countering the government’s harshest charge, ‘aiding the enemy,’ which carries a life sentence.
Judge Lind deferred a ruling on whether the defense would be allowed to present evidence of overclassification to dispute the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge.
Following those announcements, both parties argued for the defense’s motion to dismiss charges based on a lack of a speedy trial. On Manning’s 964th day in prison awaiting trial, government prosecutors attempted to justify the extensive delays, contending that they were duly diligent and that the scope and complexity of the case necessitate a lengthy pretrial confinement.
Defense lawyer David Coombs followed, arguing that the government has violated Manning’s right to a speedy trial as afforded by the U.S. constitution, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the Rules for Court Martial. Under RCM 707, the government has 120 days from arrest to arraign a detainee. Prosecutors took more than 600 days to arraign Manning, but their delays have been excluded by the court-martial Convening Authority, Col. Carl Coffman. But the defense argues Col. Coffman, who’s legally bound to make an independent determination on whether the delays the government requests are reasonable, was essentially a rubber stamp, signing off on one government request after another without urging prosecutors to speed their progress.
Furthermore, the defense says prosecutors waited months and months for government agencies to complete classification reviews of documents Manning’s accused of leaking, and should have proceeded with Manning’s Article 32 pretrial hearing with the evidence it already had.
Article 10 of the UCMJ, more stringent than the Constitution’s 5th amendment, dictates that the prosecution must act diligently throughout the case, from arrest through to conviction or dismissal. The defense pointed to dozens of days where the government didn’t act at all, and far more when it “dragged its feet.” Manning was arrested on May 27, 2010, but prosecutors didn’t urge classification authorities to complete their reviews until March 18, 2011.
To rebut the defense’s claims, government prosecutor Ashden Fein downplayed the defense’s claims that it waited nearly a year to move reviews along. He said the government couldn’t have acted earlier, because WikiLeaks was releasing documents attributed to Manning throughout 2010 – even though it knew which documents it wanted to charge months before it referred the second set of charges on March 1, 2011.
Judge Lind will rule on the defense’s speedy trial motion by the next hearing, February 26 through March 1, 2013, by which time Manning will have been in jail for more than 1,000 days. Unlike last month’s Article 13 ruling, when Judge Lind awarded the defense 112 days credit toward a potential sentence, the speedy trial ruling affords no intermediary solutions. The judge can deny the motion altogether, dismiss charges with prejudice and Manning would walk free, or dismiss charges without prejudice, allowing the government to recharge the same offenses.