President Donald Trump has recently pardoned former Army lieutenant Michael Behenna, who was serving a 25-year sentence for a conviction of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone originating from a 2008 incident. Behenna was only five years into his sentence when he received this pardon, or clemency, technically. Throughout his case, Behenna claimed he was acting in self-defense, which appears to be the primary motivating factor behind the White House’s decision to pardon him.
KEY DETAILS OF THE BEHENNA MURDER CASE & CONVICTION
In 2008, U.S. Armed Forces had detained Ali Mansur shortly after an explosive killed two service members north of Baghdad. Both of the servicemembers were known to be Behenna’s friends and served in the same platoon. Mansur was not able to be linked directly to the attack, despite suspicions of his involvement with al-Qaeda. As such, Behenna was ordered to transport him back to his home and release hm.
Instead of following this order directly, Behenna took Mansur to an isolated area for what has been called an “impromptu interrogation.” During this incident, Behenna made Mansur strip naked before questioning. According to Behenna’s statements in his 2009 court-martial, Mansur made an attempt to secure his firearm, at which point Behenna shot him twice in self-defense.
When Behenna was first convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone, he attempted to overturn that conviction. In his defense and the appeal, he claimed the prosecution withheld evidence that would have supported his decision to act in self-defense in the shooting of Mansur. A judge did not approve the overturning of the conviction, but the sentencing did get greatly restructured in his benefit. In the end, the full prison sentence requirement was only 15 years with a chance of parole, which Behenna did get five years ago.
It was not until late 2018 that the case was brought to the attention of the Trump Administration. Oklahoma State Attorney General Mike Hunter asked Trump through a letter to grant clemency to Behenna, who had become an upstanding citizen in his hometown and who had always been a proud patriot and defender of the Flag. In that letter, Hunter noted that Behenna had clearly made mistakes – most likely pointing to the decision to ignore the order to escort Mansur home – but wrote urgently that he deserved better treatment.
(You can learn more about the Behenna pardon case by clicking here, and viewing a full article from The Washington Post.)
WHAT TO LEARN FROM THE BEHENNA PARDON
There are a few key takeaways that we can gather from the Behanna case and his eventual Presidential pardon. The first being that it is important to remember that there are layers to the military criminal justice system. A case is not over just because it reaches a conviction, or a conclusion in court-martial. There is always a chance it can be appealed to higher courts and powers, like the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), or, in this rare case, the Presidents of the United States. It is crucial for defendants in military criminal cases to work with a defense attorney who is knowledgeable not only in their immediate defense, but also in the processes that may come next.
Secondly, the case highlights the intense, uncertain situations that military service members encounter every single day when they are on active duty. No circumstance is really painted black-and-white, and there is always an element of unexpected danger. Brave men and women put themselves into these situations voluntarily to defend our great nation, and it is important for the military justice system to recognize the stresses put on them — the same stresses that may lead them to making serious errors in judgement. It is simply not right to hold them under the shadow and the weight of any such mistake for the rest of their lives, especially when they have been so honorable to stand up for our country to begin with.
Are you facing a military criminal charge or court-martial? To stand up for yourself and to give yourself greater chances of success, both today and for many, many years in the future, come to Attorney Joseph L. Jordan. He and his legal team have been successfully defending service members from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces in bases in all hemispheres. No matter where you are, how you serve, or what accusations you face, his team can give you the voice and defense you so very much deserve.
Call (866) 624-7503 today, or use an online contact form to get started.