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With “kill team” trials behind them, some families of convicted soldiers stand by Gibbs

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Feb. 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm with 3 Comments »
February 10, 2012 3:35 pm
Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs at a November 2010 pretrial hearing. (AP Photo/Courtroom Sketch by Peter Millett)

Last week’s abrupt conclusion to the Army’s two-year “kill team” investigation at Joint Base Lewis-McChord led me to call several of the families whose lives were upended by successive courts-martial. Check The News Tribune Sunday for the story I’m writing from the interviews on how they’re rebuilding their lives with the trials behind them.

One impression that stood out: Some of the families are standing by convicted “kill team” ringleader Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs.

This isn’t too surprising given that so many of Gibbs’ friends and fellow soldiers attended his November court-martial. They’ve been pulling for him along and they clearly liked him as an infantry squad leader.

It’s a disconnect for me because Gibbs’ conviction caused me to drop the word “alleged” from my stories about him – Unless he wins an appeal, he’s guilty. It also contradicts what most civilians would assume: That families would blame Gibbs for leading soldiers in his platoon down a dark path by planting the seeds for three civilian killings.

Here’s one example from Dana Holmes. Her son, Pfc. Andrew Holmes, was one of four soldiers in his platoon who were convicted of participating in illegitimate killings.

Dana Holmes said she met Gibbs during her visits to Lewis-McChord and came away with a positive impression of the soldier from Montana.

“I have never seen the person the Army portrayed,” she said. “I’m not saying he’s not guilty, I’ve never seen that person.”

Here’s someone who knew Gibbs better. Sara Bram is the wife of Staff Sgt. David Bram, who was convicted of assaulting a subordinate and posing for a photo with an Afghan casualty.

“I don’t believe for one second (Gibbs) was going around wanting to kill people,” Sara Bram said.

Gibbs in November denied that he orchestrated civilian killings during his deployment with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. A five-soldier jury didn’t believe him. They sided with testimony from admitted “kill team” participant Spc. Jeremy Morlock and Spc. Adam Winfield, who also pleaded guilty to joining in an illegitimate shooting with Gibbs.

Gibbs to me appeared stunned when the jury chairwoman read the verdict, as if he couldn’t understand why the members of the jury panel would believe Morlock and Winfield over him.

In December, I ran into a member of the jury panel and asked the soldier if Gibbs looked surprised by the results of his trial. It was a casual conversation, so I’m not naming the soldier.

The answer: How could Gibbs expect a different result after watching the evidence the jury saw?

 

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. lbrn1024 says:

    I stand with Dana Holmes…Andy never had a bad thing to say about SSgt Calvin Gibbs, unlike the other two that pleaded guilty for lesser sentences in exchange for testifying against the others. Andy also liked his SSgt Gibbs. I am appalled that Jeremy Morlock became the Prosecutions star witness. His story changed so many times (most incredible witness I have ever seen), which resulted with our good soldiers doing prison sentences whereas Morlock pleads guilty to 3 premeditated murders and gets 24 years (and likely out in 7 years). Calvin Gibbs does not deserve a live sentence nor do others deserve the sentences they were given.

  2. Wrapper98439 says:

    You have to remember a few things about a court martial. The jury is hand picked, usually by the installation commander. The jury counts on that same official for endorsements required for promotion. Really think they will fail to follow the wishes of their commander? Lack if promotion means lack of a job…..

  3. lbrn1024 says:

    Very true Wrapper 98439…I am well aware of this process. Many received promotions over this case; C.O.s were transferred AND promoted during the beginning of all court proceedings…this I do not agree with.

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