By Debbie Gregory.
Once again, a military court has voided the conviction of former Marine Staff Sgt. Joe Chamblin, who was filmed urinating on Taliban corpses during a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan. The video was first posted by TMZ in January 2012, prompting an international backlash.
Chamblin was sentenced to 30 days’ confinement. The resulting demotion to sergeant ultimately ended his Marine Corps career.
Last November, five years after the initial sentence, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the case be set aside because of apparent unlawful command influence, which occurs when a senior military officer uses his or her position of authority to influence legal proceedings. The ruling cited the actions of now-retired Gen. James Amos, who was commandant of the Marine Corps from 2010 to 2014, and some of his senior staff members.
Then-Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, who was initially appointed to oversee the sniper prosecutions, testified that Gen. Amos met with him and told him the defendants needed to be “crushed” for their actions.
Waldhauser, now a four-star general overseeing U.S. Africa Command, later told Amos that he had decided against sending any of the Marines to a general court-martial, the military’s most serious form of trial. Shortly thereafter, Waldhauser was replaced by another general.
According to Waldhauser, Amos said at the time that he had “crossed the line” in his previous conversation and was removing Waldhauser as a remedy.
The Marine Corps failed to notify the accused Marines and their attorneys why Waldhauser was removed.
The appellate judges also considered the decision by the Marine Corps’ top lawyer at that time to remove another attorney on the case who had protested what he considered the “irregular classification of evidence.”
The ruling specifically blamed Amos for complicating the case.
The government has two months to decide whether to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) to consider the case. For the military, CAAF is the final appellate step before the Supreme Court.