Posted by: dbrandonw | January 5, 2010

Our Plea To Army Board: Clemency for Michael

To All Michael Behenna supporters,

We travel to Washington D.C. this week to plead Michael’s case before the Army Clemency Board.  We have so much to tell them, but we are given only ten minutes to convey our many thoughts.  Amazingly, Michael’s sentence of 20 years is twice what any other soldier has been sentenced for unpremeditated murder.  It is our hope that the Clemency Board will at the very least bring Michael’s sentence into line with others.  Even better would be if the Board decided to release him pending his appeal.

Michael’s attorney’s filed his appeal on 12/22/09 and their appellate brief gives us great hope the appellate court will need to look long and hard as to whether Michael received a fair trial.  Special focus was put on the prosecution withholding crucial evidence offered by their own expert which could have exonerated Michael on the murder charge.

Your support of Michael during this holiday season has been emotionally and spiritually uplifting. Our son received hundreds of cards that helped him get through this difficult time. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks and keep up your letter writing to the Secretary of the Army, Honorable John McHugh, 1400 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC   20301-1400. In the end we believe that Michael will prevail.

Of special note is that Michael’s case was selected as #5 in the top ten articles covered by the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces (CAAF) Blog.  The fact that persons covering military appeals have shown such an interest in Michael’s case helps provide encouragement for those of us that feel Michael’s case is so much more than another war related murder case.

Below are links to articles by the Oklahoman’s Washington Correspondent and a KOCO video concerning the Clemency Hearing:

Daily Oklahoman article (article also shown in entirety below)
Channel KOCO interview

Thanks again for your overwhelming support of an American soldier we proudly call our son.

Scott and Vicki Behenna
www.defendmichael.com

CLEMENCY BOARD TO HEAR ADDRESS

Soldier’s mother to plead his case

BY CHRIS CAST

Washington Bureau  ccasteel@opubco.com

WASHINGTON — Vicki Behenna has 10 minutes to plead her son’s case.

Where does she begin?

In the last few months, she has developed hours of arguments about why U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was wrongly convicted of killing a suspected terrorist in Iraq in 2008, why his 20-year sentence for unpremeditated murder was too severe compared to other sentences for the same offense and why the military rules for detaining suspected terrorists make no sense in a combat zone.

She will have to condense all that into a matter of minutes when she appears Thursday before the Army Clemency and Parole Board in Arlington, Va.

Vicki Behenna, of Edmond, is a federal prosecutor — she was part of the team that won conviction of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh — so she knows something about making concise and cogent arguments in a legal setting. When she appears before the clemency board, though, it will be “as his mom,” she said last week.

She said she has been given 10 minutes to address the board and that she will focus primarily on the length of her son’s sentence for unpremeditated murder. Though she hasn’t been able to find a central data bank of courtmartial sentences, she said the longest other recent sentence she could find for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone was 11 years. Her son originally received a 25-year sentence, which was reduced to 20 years. Michael Behenna, who is 26, is serving that sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

The clemency hearing is just one of the legal routes being pursued by Behenna and her husband, Scott.

Houston attorney Jack Zimmerman recently filed an appeal claiming Michael Behenna’s conviction should be overturned, in part because prosecutors didn’t turn over evidence that would have corroborated Behenna’s story that he shot the victim in self-defense. The evidence was the opinion of a renowned expert on bloodstains.

The Behennas have also enlisted Oklahoma attorneys and elected officials to write letters to military leaders and the clemency board urging that Lt. Behenna’s case be handled fairly and according to legal principles.

The Behennas plan to be on Capitol Hill this week telling Michael’s story. Though Congress is still in recess, the Behennas are hoping to meet with staff members of lawmakers who sit on the Armed Services committees.

Vicki Behenna said congressional panels need to hold hearings on the rules regarding detaining suspected terrorists. Currently, she said, the rules require a suspect to be released unless stringent conditions are met.

Military officials decided those conditions were not met for Ali Mansur Mohamed after Behenna captured him in Iraq with evidence that he had ties to al-Qaida.

Behenna suspected that Ali Mansur had been involved in planting a roadside bomb that killed two members of his platoon and wounded others.

Behenna had arrested Ali Mansur at his home, and Behenna was the one ordered to take Ali Mansur back home when he was released from custody.

Behenna shot and killed Ali Mansur that night after questioning him. Prosecutors said it was an execution; Behenna claimed Ali Mansur had been trying to grab Behenna’s gun.

The case has received national media attention and has been taken up as a cause on some Web sites, including one started by the Behennas called DefendMichael.com; a petition posted on the site seeking a new trial for Lt. Behenna has more than 6,500 signatures.

Bev Perlson, whose son has served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and who started a group called Band of Mothers, accompanied Vicki Behenna to lawmakers’ offices on Capitol Hill in early December. Perlson features Lt. Behenna’s case promi   nently on her Web site and said in an interview last week that she is encouraging veterans and others to show up at the hearing on Thursday.

Though the public is not allowed into the hearing, Perlson said it would be an important show of support just to have people outside the building.

“It just breaks my heart what happened to Michael,” she said.

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