Military Judge Colonel Steven Folsom, USMC, this morning dismissed all charges against Lt Colonel Jeffrey Chessani on the grounds of unlawful command influence. He blistered the prosecution’s case in an opinion he read from the bench that lasted an hour. The ruling was without prejudice. Colonel Folsom gave prosecutors 72 hours in which to notify him whether they would appeal.
In May 2008, Col Folsom ruled that he found evidence of unlawful command influence (UCI). Courts consider UCI the mortal enemy of military justice. The judge’s finding was based upon the evidence that Generals Mattis and Helland, who controlled the disposition of LtCol Chessani’s case, were impermissibly influenced by Marine lawyer Col John Ewers, one of the initial investigators of the Haditha. Col Ewers was permitted to attend at least and up to 25 closed-session meetings in which LtCol Chessani’s case was discussed.
As a result of that ruling, the burden shifted to prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the facts alleged by the defense are untrue; (2) the facts alleged do not constitute unlawful command influence; or (3) the unlawful command influence will not affect the proceedings. In short, court decisions on unlawful command influence require the military judge to avoid even the “appearance of this evil” in his courtroom.
As I understand it, they can refile the charges, BUT. They face a SERIOUS "Can you prove?" questioning if they do. And having every word they say and every action they take gone over with a razor-edged stripping comb looking for anything improper.
I wonder if Murtha's minions will have anything to say other than "The Rep. cannot comment while the trial is ongoing"? Of course, if the