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Stryker “kill team” suspect aims to get case dismissed

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on April 25, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
April 25, 2011 1:42 pm

The youngest of five Stryker soldiers accused of murdering Afghans last year is in court today at Joint Base Lewis-McChord asking an Army judge to dismiss the case against him.

Defense attorneys for Pfc. Andrew Holmes, 20, are challenging the prosecution’s case on several fronts. Their efforts include:

  • Arguing that prosecutors violated Holmes’ right to a speedy trial by confining him for nearly a year. The Uniform Code of Military Justice says soldiers accused of crimes should be brought to trial within 120 days unless their defense appeals for delays.
  • Appealing to have Holmes released from jail in advance of his court martial. His court martial is scheduled to being as early as June 27, and he faces life in prison if he’s convicted of the murder charge. Spc. Michael Wagnon, one of Holmes’ codefendants, was released from confinement Friday.
  • Asking Army Judge Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks to order a second Article 32 hearing for Holmes. That’s a pretrial hearing where an Army investigating officer weighs the prosecution’s and recommends whether the military should pursue charges against a suspect. Holmes had an Article 32 hearing in November, but his attorneys say the Army restricted them from presenting evidence and denied them opportunities to cross-examine key witnesses against the soldier from Boise.

Holmes’ attorneys also are asking the Army to let them call on a psychologist and a forensic pathologist at the upcoming trial.

Their chosen pathologist, Michael Baden, testified today that photos of Holmes’ alleged victim do not show evidence that Holmes’ weapon killed the man. Holmes was firing a squad automatic weapon the day of the killing, but Baden said there are no machine gun wounds on the victim. Instead, there are isolated puncture wounds and it’s not clear what caused them, Baden said.

“There are always multiple” wounds in machine gun victims, Baden said. “It’s not really possible to shoot one burst of machine gun fire.”

Baden testified by phone while reviewing at least one photo that shows Holmes posing with the victim as if he was a hunter. That image has been published in Rolling Stone and Der Spiegel magazines, drawing international attention to his case.

He’s one of a dozen soldiers in the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who have been accused of misconduct during the deployment to southern Afghanistan last year. Two of those soldiers attended Holmes’ hearing to lend their support.

Wagnon was one. Spc. Corey Moore, who faced lesser charges, was the other. Moore’s been sentenced to hard labor and given a bad-conduct discharge. Wagnon was wearing civilian clothes and embraced Holmes as he left the court. Moore was wearing his Army uniform.

Prosecutors said they’re willing to allow a pathologist to testify at a trial, but not necessarily Baden.

“They’re not entitled to get a witness to say what they want him to say,” prosecutor Capt. Jon Riesenberg said.

Today’s hearing is expected to end this evening.

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