Both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the United States Constitution guarantee soldiers the right to a speedy trial. Back in September Bradley Manning’s defense team filed a motion to dismiss all the charges against Manning, with prejudice, based on the lack of a speedy trial. The court martial was expected to be taking place now but it has once again been delayed, this time until June – meaning that by the time Bradley Manning reaches trial he will have been in prison for over three years.
Some key points from the motion to dismiss the charges:
- The arguments to dismiss are divided into two key sections, pre-arraignment delays, and post-arraignment delays. This is because the “speedy trial clock” counts the time from a soldiers arrest, to their arraignment. This time is expected not to exceed 120 days, except for “reasonable delays” which the Convening Authority can sign off on. In the case of Bradley Manning, the Government took over 600 days.
- The defense argues that the Convening Authority unreasonably excluded a number of periods from the trial clock.
- Defense argues the Government was wrong to wait for Classification reviews prior to the arraignment. These were not necessary to the arraignment, and should not have have been used to delay the trial. The defense motion points to a case, Pyburn, where laboratory tests caused a delay in an arraignment, and which ended in a dismissal of the charges because the laboratory tests were not necessary to demonstrating guilt -“As in Pyburn, this Court should conclude that although it would have been marginally more helpful for the Government to have the benefit of a classification review prior to the Article 32, a classification review was by no means a legal requirement. The Government clearly had other means of demonstrating that the charged information was classified at the time of the offense, describing the harm to national security, asserting a privilege on behalf of the OCA, or requesting a closed hearing.”
The court martial has been rescheduled post-arraignment multiple times. One of the biggest delays was due to the Government’s failure to turn over relevant information to the defense. In the US court martial system, the Government has access to everything, and the defense must ask for specific information. This is supposedly done to protect classified information. We know from the documents allegedly released by Bradley Manning that too much information is classified without proper justification. And in this case very relevant information was being hidden from the defense. The Government defended this, saying that the defense had not asked for specific enough information – knowing that the defense had little way of finding out the information existed.
How can you request what you do not know exists?
The defense argues that the prosecution does not understand its obligations to prepare and release relevant information (‘discovery’ in court-speak). When the defense got wind that damage assessments the government claimed did not exist, actually did exist, Judge Lind came to side with the defense, and she forced the government to turn over a large cache of important documents. The defense then needed time to sort through volumes of relevant documents that the government had been hiding. These documents should have been turned over early on.
The denial of Bradley Manning’s rights, the abuse, and inexplicable trial delays are enraging supporters. More than 40 events have been organized to demonstrate in support of Bradley Manning’s right to a speedy trial. Bradley Manning may have broken the law, but he certainly did the right thing. He exposed war crimes. He is a whistle-blower who deserves protection. Hopefully Judge Lind will take the opportunity, at the February 26th hearing, to set things right.