One of several Marines who was filmed urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters in 2011 has had his conviction overturned by a military appeals court, after finding that the then-commandant of the Marine Corps had interfered in the case, Military.com reported.
The Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction of Staff Sgt. Joseph Chamblin, who was sentenced to 30 days confinement, a loss of $500 in pay and a reduction in rank, Military.com reported.
Around July 27, 2011, in Afghanistan, Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, urinated on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters. The video of the incident went viral on YouTube and other websites, and caused outrage in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Chamblin pleaded guilty to wrongful desecration, failure to properly supervise junior Marines and posing for unofficial photographs with human casualties.
Chamblin has published his view of the events in a book titled “Into Infamy: A Sniper’s War.”
Then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos designated Lt. Gen Thomas Waldhauser to receive reports and make a decision on discipline and punishment. However, in February, Amos met Waldhauser in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) asking Waldhauser to hand down a harsh punishment, Military.com reported.
When Waldhauser told Amos he would not courts-martial the Marines in the investigation, Amos replaced Waldhauser with Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, Military.com reported. The issue of unlawful command influence came into play as Amos and his attorney continued to try and influence the cases, such as trying to keep videos of the incident kept classified and secret, Military.com reported.
Amos made a presentation called “Heritage Brief” to Marines in spring 2012 covering the topic of good discipline and behavior. In the presentation, a photo of the urination incident was displayed with the words “What Does America Think of Her Marines Today?” on it, Military.com reported. This called into question the issue of unlawful command influence, as a decision in the cases was still being made, Military.com reported.
The appeals court found evidence of the unlawful command influence (UCI) that was never removed from the case.
“The highest-ranking officer in the Marine Corps told [Waldhauser] that the appellant and his co-accused should be ‘crushed,'” the court wrote, Military.com reported. “This is an unusually flagrant example of UCI. We find that UCI this direct, and occurring at this level, is highly corrosive to public trust in this proceeding.”
The appeals court found that the “Heritage Brief” incident “would erode public confidence in the the fairness of prosecution proceedings,” Military.com reported.
“We … find that public confidence in military justice requires dismissal with prejudice in this case,” the court found, according to Military.com.