I (www.jamesphillipslaw.com) was at Fort Campbell today and watched a portion of US v. Behenna. The prosecution is three quarters of the way through their case. The case so far has consisted of laying the foundations for proving the murder. The case seems strong, but the defense has yet to present their evidence and that will probably not begin until early Thursday morning.
The panel members (or the civilian equivalent to a military jury) were fully engaged and very attentive today. 1LT Behenna’s panel consists of seven officers on the panel. One woman and six men have been selected for Behenna’s panel. Four members of the panel are captains. The other three are field grade officers. A majority of the panel appears to have combat experience.
The prosecution will present the meat of their case tomorrow. “Harry” the interpretor, who was with 1LT Behenna at the time of Ali Mansur’s death, is expected to testify. He is expected to testify to witnessing Ali Mansur getting shot. Strange as it may seem, if “Harry” follows his pattern from the Article 32 hearing, he will testify as the interpretor through an interpretor. After “Harry” is done testifying, SSG Mitch Warner is expected to be the final witness in the prosecutions case. He will also testify as an eye witness to the events that took place in the desert.
Jack Zimmerman, the civilian defense counsel for 1LT Behenna, vigorously fought any characterization of Ali Mansur’s death with the words “homicide” and “crime” today. His defense team lodged several objections to the prosecutions characterizations of the death with any words that resembled a crime. The argument may have seemed to be one of semantics to the panel, but the defense clearly was sending a message with the objections that they were objecting to the prosecutions entire case. They are trying to focus the panel on the idea that this may have been a lawful killing. They also do not want to have the panel prejudge Behenna prior to them being able to put on their defense.
The defense will begin presenting evidence probably this Thursday. They will probably follow up with their promises made during opening arguments, which will mean that they will put evidence on that will demonstrate that 1LT Behenna was not thinking clearly at the time of the killing. They will also probably put on evidence showing that Ali Mansur may have been a suspected terrorist.
CPT Johnston, 1LT Behenna’s acting commander during the investigation, testified today regarding his preliminary investigation into the death of Ali Mansur. After his testimony, the panel presented the military judge with several written questions. The questions presented by the panel were very thoughtful and seemed defense oriented.
The prosecution brought several witnesses to testify from Iraq. The Iraqis testified through an interpretor.
There were several journalists in the audience, but overall, the case has not drawn the media attention it probably deserves.