LT Behenna’s ongoing defense.

I was on facebook yesterday and strangely enough got a request to be part of a group to defend LT Behenna.  One of my friends sent me the link and I thought it was ironic that he did not know that I represented SSG Warner and had watched the trial of LT Behenna.  I believe part of the request was to sign a petition in order to have LT Behenna pardoned.  With this current administration and their take on the war in Iraq,  I believe that is highly unlikely, but it would be a viable way to mitigate the very heavy sentence in this case.

LT Behenna and SSG Warner were both part of a very tragic story.  Several weeks before the killing of Ali Mansur took place, LT Behenna’s squad had captured Ali Mansur at his home.  They had credible information to believe he was part of Al Qaeda and that he was a terrorist that had been involved in the death of several of LT Behenna’s squad members.  The members of LT Behenna’s squad, along with SSG Warner, showed restrained at that time.  If they had wanted to, they could have easily made up a plausible story that Ali Mansur resisted his capture.  There were illegal weapons at Ali Mansur’s home and it would have been a simple matter to kill him during the armed take down of that home.  But, that is not what happened.

LT Behenna and the members of his squad decided that they would let the “authorities” investigate Ali Mansur.  They dropped him off at a detention facility with all of the information that they knew about his terrorist activities and hoped that justice would prevail.  Instead, within a matter of weeks, LT Behenna and his squad were asked to return Ali Mansur to his home and his village.  Military Intelligence determined that they didn’t have enough to hold Ali Mansur despite the RPGs, weaponry and illegal passports from Iran that were found at his home.  Clearly, Ali Mansur was involved in nefarious activities and LT Behenna believed he had credible evidence to prove that.

LT Behenna’s frustration at the release of Ali Mansur back to his family was understandable.  After witnessing the death of the men in his squad, in what he believed was directly related to the activities of Ali Mansur, was surely a motivating factor in driving Ali Mansur to the desert and stripping him naked.

These events are very much a picture of what is occurring in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  We ask our soldiers to toe the line, and to deal with whatever decision comes from higher, even if they don’t understand the wherefore’s and the why’s.  For many, the resulting death of Ali Mansur, is no tragedy.  For them, the resulting incarceration of LT Behenna for avenging his men, is the true tragedy.

As a former JAG, I understand the need for the laws of war.  I just don’t believe ultimately that the decisions that are made on the battlefield are so easily codified and analyzed as to fit in the Geneva Conventions.  If SSG Warner and LT Behenna had deliberately decided to kill Ali Mansur when they picked him on that first day, would that have gotten LT Behenna 25 years of jail?  Probably not.

12 thoughts on “LT Behenna’s ongoing defense.

  1. Pingback: CAAFlog » Behenna follow-up

  2. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the discovery issue and the closing argument (no evidence exists that supports Behenna – when there was and the prosecutor knew it and did not disclose it).

  3. Just a few corrections to your post. The petition is not for a pardon but is asking for a new trial with ALL of the evidence presented to a military panel. LT Michael Behenna fought for life, liberty, and the pursuit of hapiness for the Iraqi and American people and that is what the supporters of the LT are fighting for now. Since you were only there for part of the six day court-martial and not for the subsequent mistrial hearing on March 20th, you may not have heard ALL of the statements made by the prosecution. Their opening arguements stated that they would prove that the LT sat Ali down and on a rock and while standing over him, executed him point blank first in the head and then the body as a revenge killing for the April 21st attack on his platoon. Over the course of the trial, the prosecution never provided any physical evidence that proved this theory. On the contrary, they suppressed testimony of their own forensic specialist, Dr. MacDonnell, and even denied under oath that they posessed any such evidence that proved the shooting was self-defense. Their closing arguements were also made contrary to the physical evidence. They went so far as to call the LT’s testimony “unbelievable” and “impossible” when they knew that Dr. MacDonnell had recreated the events of May 16th in a conference room using all of the physical evidence available before the LT testified. This demonstration matched the LT’s testimony and again the Dr. informed the prosecution of his findings at which time he was reminded that his expertise was not needed and a flight had been arranged for him to leave Ft. Campbell. The prosecution has even filed papers with the court since these formal procedures that have denied these events and have even tried to cast dispersions on Dr. MacDonnell’s official findings as well as his mental competency.

    I understand your interest in the LT’s case and how it relates to your clients but the supporters have heard enough inaccurate statements and just want the truth to be told. We just want the court to give the LT what he should have received the first time…the search for truth and justice so that he can continue on his American way.


  4. I think its a bunch of bs that he was not given a fair trial. Yes he did shoot that man but we were not there we do not know for sure if he did it on purpose or if he was infact protecting himself. I think its so unfair that he and others are fighting a war to allow us to have freedom but yet he was denied his right to a fair trial. He needs to have a new one to so the jury can hear DR McDONNELL testimony and the last i heard you need to be proven guilty without reasonable doubt and if anyone had any sense after hearing the testimony you would have a doubt in your mind that he commited this crime in cold blood. I hope and pray to god that he will be relased. I was prior army and my husband is still in and after seeing what multiple deployments can do to soldiers I think its unfair that no one else is being held accountable if this was a cold blooded murder. What about his chain of command didnt other soldiers say he was not the same, after his men got killed ? did they not notice a change in him? why was he told go release this prisoner when everyone must have known he was upset about his men dying and he thought this guy knew something? Now again if it was cold blooded murder this stuff should be considered but I believe him in the fact that he was defending himself.

  5. “LT Behenna for avenging his men, is the true tragedy”.

    Well, counsel – was it self defence or vengence?

    I believe in fair trials. If the Government witheld expert evidence that would have helped the LT, it is a no-brainer that they had a duty to the Court to disclose it.

    Whether or not that evidence carries much weight remains to be seen. I wonder if folks are putting too much weight on this evidence – like it’s the eureka moment that will clairfy all and exonerate LT.

    At the end of the day, LT had the motive, means and opportunity. Where is the self-defence and use of deadly force required in a naked man, even if he was standing.

    Hey, my heart goes out to the kid – and I hope he gets his new trial, but unless there is something indeed earth-shattering, I suspect he will get the same result as before.

    Having said that, the Army must take some of the blame. Anyone with any sense would have known not to send LT to see this terrorist again. In the UK, at any rate, “diminished responsibility” is a defence in law – and given what LT had been through, it’s took bad his defence couldn’t run that or “provocation”. It’s a very sad situation for this young officer and 25 years is extremely harsh.

  6. He was convicted of driving this guy into the desert, stripping him naked and then executing him with shots to the head. His defense was that the evildoer made a threatening move by standing up….naked. I’m not sure what he was threatened by. Based on the information on his lawyers blog and the eye witnesses from his squad, one of whom turned him in..I think it’s probable that he overstepped the line when it comes to the Geneva and Hague Conventions rules regarding unarmed combatants. The Army adheres to these rules and every soldier is thoroughly briefed before going into a theater of operations as to the rules of engagement. The reality is since the US claims to wear a white hat in these interventions the Army’s actions are more thoroughly scrutinized by the world than those of the terrorists. But this is hardly unprecedented and we’ve been here before. We’ve heard these same arguments about snap decisions in the combat zone; he’s a patriot; he did what he had to do, you don’t know who the enemy is, they’re all murdering scum..the My Lai case set the standard for military law concerning these kinds of actions. Outside the numbers I’m not sure Behenna is any less culpable than Lt. Calley. Perhaps the popular opinion is that the deceased Ali Baba, or whatever his name was, was an evil and murdering scum… the deceased didn’t deserve to live. However, an army lieutenant doesn’t have the authority to make that decision, regardless whether he is a 1943 Werhmacht lieutenant in the Ukraine taking out captured Red Army partisans or a modern day American soldier in Iraq. There are rules and consequences to their violation and everybody knows them. I’m not sure military jurisprudence can recognize the relevance of Nuremberg and the lessons of My Lai and then turn a blind eye to this one. His mistake, and I agree with this lawyer here, was when the evildoer was first apprehended, a few weeks earlier by Lt. Behenna with illegal weapons in his possession, he could have been shot on the spot, with the evidence of his resistance lying about his feet. Few questions would have been asked. I think the Command erred by requiring the same apprehending officer, Behenna, to come to the detention facility to take the guy home after it was determined by higher authority that they didn’t have enough on the guy…even though this fellow was suspected of killing some of Behenna’s own troops. Smacks of set-up..”here he is LT…he killed your troops now take him home and remember…don’t hurt him..”yeah right.. The facts would indicate that instead, Lt. Behenna took a detour out into the desert, in a direction away from the evildoer’s home where he was ordered to take him, hence the pre-meditation charge, and then executed this guy in front of lower ranking troops in his squad. The trial testimony indicates that he subsequently briefed his men on what their story was supposed to be when asked. Not sure these are the actions of an armed combatant playing by the rules. The testimony also indicates that some of the soldiers in his squad later couldn’t square their conscience with the bravado of their LT. The only benefit of my ex-military experience, that you suggest, is that I can envision this scenario actually happening. Dirty deeds and illegal acts flaunting the UCMJ were committed during my tenure in the Recruiting Command with impunity from battalion commanders downward. The unwritten rule was the opening line from the TV series Mission Impossible, ” If any of your force is caught…the Secretary will disavow any information..” The rule during my service in every command and in every location was, ” Mission First..Do whatever you need to do to accomplish the mission..and don’t be stupid enough to get caught.” Behenna got caught. Therefore, the Army had no choice but to deal with him in the light of scrutiny.

  7. totally agreed on the fact,of course he killed him,of course they covert up,wouldn’t you after your temper got away with you and combined with the loss of your comrades , of course he didn’t have a reason to kill him at the arrest ,because he knew that guy will have a “nicely”interrogation with a little torture to get the truth out …but using the very same platoon to bring that guy back to his city to set him free ,wow, that must have triggered the whole vengeance thing, so blame is on the people who in the first place used shattered,biased, vengeful soldiers to escort there main suspect back home to his freedom ,was this done purposely ??? ..anyway, everything else is with no means anymore, why would he attack the Lt. ,lol, he was on his way to freedom anyway,why naked ? why tied up,when he supposed to be brought back to his hometown ? OF COURSE HE GOT KILLED AS A REVENGE KILLING ,but the guild is more on the command and not a mourning pissed off Lt. ,in my opinion that is of course,….M.von Pallutz Lt’ of Luftwaffe in Ret.

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