They've been shackled in chains and held in solitary confinement, their defense attorneys have been denied access to key evidence of the case and now their right to request a waiver of a pre-trial hearing — known as an article 32 — has also been denied. Such has been the treatment of the men known as the Pendleton 8 in their quest to receive a fair, impartial hearing with a true presumption of innocence.
The Pendleton 8 are seven Marines and a naval corpsman being held in a brig at Camp Pendleton while waiting trial on charges of kidnapping and murder. On April 26, they were on an ambush mission in Hamdania, Iraq, designed to snare known local insurgents. The men are charged with allegedly taking an Iraqi villager, 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad, from his home, kidnapping him, placing him in a hole, shooting him repeatedly and staging the scene to make it appear he was an insurgent planting a bomb. The defendants deny the charges and claim they followed the rules of engagement. The federal government thus far has denied their defense attorneys access to evidence of the crime scene. Allegations are based upon witness accounts of Mr. Awad's neighbors. This case is separate from Haditha, Iraq, case.
"The Article 32 hearing is a sham," said defense attorney Jane Siegal, who represents PFC. John Jodka III. "Because the government has denied our opportunity to waive the 32, it is costing the Jodka family tens of thousands of additional dollars in legal fees. All this so the government can parade its coerced statements in front of the media. Coerced statements paraded in front of the media which will potentially pollute the jury pool."
Ms. Siegal's strategy to waive the article 32 hearing and go directly to trial was based upon her belief that the case is certain to go to trial anyway, so why waste time and money with a pre-trial.
As to the allegation of coerced statements, Pfc. Jodka's father, John Jr., described to me the psychological torture he believes his 20-year-old son has endured:
"Immediately after my son was removed from the war zone, literally moments after his rifle was removed from his hands, he was placed in a room for 7 to 7.5 hours — no food, no water, no sleep — and he was told that he was a murderer. They hammered away at him to give statements of what it was they wanted to hear."
Mr. Jodka visits his son every Saturday at the Camp Pendleton brig while balancing his career and family obligations. "JJ has looked me straight in the eye and told me his 100 percent innocent. He continues to maintain his faith in the system and believes the truth will eventually come out."
Rick Amato is a radio talk show host, Washington Times columnist, political commentator and a frequent guest on CNN. 'The Rick Amato Show' is heard on 1170 KCBQ in San Diego. Rick blogs at http://rickmato.townhall.com.
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