The emotional part of this case lies in the self-defense issue. To suggest that the men of Raven 23 were wrong for returning fire in Baghdad cuts like a knife into the brave hearts of these men who put it on the line every day and managed to make it home.
The lesser emotional issue is the pure and simple legal issue of jurisdiction. It really is the cornerstone of the entire case.
When an indictment is issued, the government must identify a law that they say allows them to punish the alleged conduct. For instance - they wouldn't charge a thief under a public intoxication statute.
When the feds filed charges against the defendants, they used the statute known as MEJA, which stands for Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. This Act was created because a lot of contractors were running into trouble during their deployments, and people were demanding they be held accountable. Folks in the military can equate MEJA to the laws covering our military, the UCMJ, or Uniform Code of Military Justice. That Code contains all sorts of statutes under which military servicemembers can be charged with a crime. MEJA operates the same way.
If you are not in the military and commit a crime, the government cannot charge you under UCMJ regs..., it simply doesn’t apply to you. In that same way MEJA is extremely limited as to who it covers.
MEJA is very simple. There are 2 requirements. You must either be a Dept of Defense contractor working overseas, OR you must be a contractor working overseas for any other government agency (to include the Dept of State) AND your employment is in "support the mission of the Department of Defense".
During the trial, the prosecutors kept having their witnesses talk about how certain firefights involved both contractors and the military. They also took an extremely elementary tack by having witnesses keep using the word "defensive" when describing their Rules of Engagement. In other words, they were trying to use word association to convince the jury that they were working in support of the mission of the Dept. of Defense. The defense argued vigorously that the defendants were not.
Technically, because the first judge didn’t decide the issue, it had not been legally settled. The defense team knew the defendants weren't working for the Dept. of Defense, but they couldn't get anybody to put it on the books. The 2nd judge also refused to decide the question, putting it to the jury, but stating during trial that he thought the only Dept. qualified to decide whether we were or were not in support of the DOD mission wasn’t the DOD, nor the DOS, but rather the LAWYERS at Justice.
The defense however, went right to the heart of the matter. Who would know better whether the defendants were or were not, than the DOD itself? If the defense called a DOS witness to say we were not, they would be accused of putting someone on the stand who agreed with them. So we called to the stand the 2nd in command at DOD in 2007...Gordon England.
In 2007, both Senator Obama and Rep. Price sent official request letters to Mr. England, demanding to know if the Department of State contractors in Iraq were indeed supporting the DOD mission. In 2007, Mr. England told both legislators that they were not. In 2014, in trial testimony, even under direct questioning by the judge, he replied, "the DOS was NOT supporting the mission of the DOD, and in fact, the DOD was supporting the State Dept. mission."
The men of Raven 23 were State Dept. contractors NOT in support of the mission of the DOD. It should have been the very first question the jury had to answer on the verdict form. Instead, the judge converted the question from a stand-alone issue, to one of several elements of each charged count. In other words, it was buried.
Imagine yourself on the jury, being told by the DEFENSE that the government had no law under which these men could be prosecuted. You would look at the judge, the prosecutors and all the lawyers in the room, and think to yourself, "well, if there's no law, how and why are we here??"
This issue is ripe for appeal. The appellate court HAS to see how the feds pushed forward without proper jurisdiction.
If the defense can get this DC court of appeals to review the argument and see the truth of the matter...we all go home. All the way home. Those are the prayers of wisdom we seek.
This blog is dedicated to the documentation, publication, and discussion of the events of September 16, 2007 which resulted in the wrongful incarceration of four decorated servicemen.