I would have posted something yesterday, but I was busy having a tornado shelter installed in my garage.
Again, for the record, I have consulted with Attorneys who practice at the military bar, both locally here in OKC and via email to others. None of them are associated with the case in any way. Any errors in my statements are mine and mine alone. I try very hard to get what they tell me correct, but there’s a reason they are the lawyers and I am the grunt.
Both the Trial Counsel (Prosecutor) and the Defense rested their sentencing cases and rebuttal witnesses for sentencing yesterday. Today, Judge Lind begins her deliberations on the question of sentencing. She could conceivably deliver the sentence at any time. Unlike US Civilian courts, where sentences are passed down for individual charges and are served either concurrently or consecutively, military sentencing is done as a single composite sentence for all charged offenses. The Defense, led by Attorney David Coombs, recommended a sentence of no more than 25 years, based upon the idea that some of the classifications of the documents that Manning leaked would expire in 25 years. The Trial Counsel has recommended a sentence of 60 years. Several witnesses testified last week in classified sessions about known damage caused by Manning’s actions. These witnesses included the head of the Joint IED Defeat Organization, the two former military attaches to the US Embassy in Pakistan, the Chief Information Officer for the State Department, the Director of the State Department’s group that deals with political dissidents in other countries, and a couple of other people. Judge Lind accepted much of the testimony, but also disallowed some of it as either being irrelevant or speculative. As I had noted in an earlier thread, many defense lawyers at the military bar had speculated that the sentence would be somewhere in the 10 to 20 year range. When I asked about Coombs’ sentencing case for 25 years or less, it was suggested to me that perhaps something came up in the classified portion of the sentencing hearing that is particularly bad for the defense.
A quick brief on military sentences and appellate procedures–any sentence of less than 10 years will be served at a regional confinement facility. Any sentence in excess of 10 years will be served at the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, KS. PFC Manning has already been awarded 110 days of credit for the unnecessarily harsh conditions which he experienced during part of his stay in the Quantico Marine Base Brig. Additionally, he will receive credit on a day for day basis for the time that he has spent in pre-trial confinement since his arrest in May, 2010. Finally, he will receive 5 days of good-time credit each 30 days that he serves his sentence on good behavior. This works out to approximately 60 days per year sentencing credit. Assuming that the sentence includes a punitive discharge or a year or more of confinement, it will automatically be docketed for appeal with the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, under Article 66, UCMJ. The ACCA may, at their sole discretion review the verdict or the sentence for factual or legal sufficiency–they can throw the whole case out if they believe that the Government didn’t prove the case, in other words. They may reduce or delete the sentence, but not add to it. Additionally, the case will automatically be docketed with the Army Clemency and Parole Board, a board whose sole responsibility and authority (also unreviewable) is to determine whether or not a court-martial sentence can be reduced in accordance with the needs of the Army, and lastly (although this will happen first) is the clemency plea that will be attached to the Convening Authority’s action. Any findings and sentence at a General or Special Court-Martial is subject to approval and execution by the Convening Authority who initiated the charges, and under whose command the accused serves. The Convening Authority may, at his (it’s a male General Officer in this case) sole, nonreviewable discretion, approve the findings or sentence in whole or in part, and may reduce or delete the sentence as he sees fit. He may not increase the sentence under any circumstances. Once ACCA issues their ruling then either party may appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. CAAF can review under the same terms as ACCA, or they can refuse to hear the case. If CAAF reviews, that opens the door to SCOTUS review, but if CAAF refuses, then that forecloses review by SCOTUS.