Is This Justice?
One Woman’s Opinion
By – Sheri de Grom
I’m having a difficult time reconciling the equality of military justice in the treatment of Army Major Nidal Hasan and that of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. Both men are charged with multiple counts of murder along with other charges. The similarities stop with the charges.
I wrote about how Army Major Nidal Hasan entered the Soldier Readiness Center on Fort Hood, Texas, and opened fire with two pistols blazing. Hasan killed thirteen people and wounded more than two dozen others. My original blog is here. The crime occurred November 5, 2009.
At Fort Lewis, Washington, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales awaits a September 3, 2013, court-martial for massacring sixteen Afghan villagers during nighttime raids on March 11, 2012. Bales faces sixteen counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder. The Army is seeking the death penalty.
Meanwhile, back at Fort Hood, defense attorneys claim Hasan wants to plead guilty to thirteen counts of premeditated murder, but Army rules prohibit a judge from accepting a guilty plea in a death penalty case. If the death sentence is removed, Hasan’s punishment would be life without parole—which he already faces if convicted of the charges of murder and attempted murder in the attack at Fort Hood.
Hasan’s date for trial has not been set and we’re in excess of three years after the shootings. Hasan’s victims have not received any compensation for injuries sustained nor have the families that lost loved ones.
However, the Washington Times reported on March 25, 2012, that the United States was paying $50,000 to Afghan families for each victim of Staff Sergeant Bales!
How it is the United States halted the war in Afghanistan for a time after Staff Sergeant Bales allegedly killed sixteen civilians? Then we paid $50,000 in restitution for each Afghan victim. Meanwhile—in the United States—over three years after the massacre at FortHood, the victims of Hasan have not received a dime.
I am outraged. The United States government by way of the U.S. Army sent Staff Sergeant Robert Bales on his fourth deployment. He’d requested that he be made a member of the rear detachment (in other words, asked that he remain at Fort Lewis, WA during that particular deployment) while his unit went to Afghanistan. Records indicate Bales didn’t feel he was well enough for another deployment.
Staff Sergeant Bales was already a decorated veteran of three previous combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wasn’t that enough for one soldier to endure? Hadn’t he been away from his family long enough? As a result of his previous three deployments, Staff Sergeant Bales had already been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Add the PTSD and TBI together and we know an individual’s personality can change and become an exploding time bomb. There’s no warning. The individual doesn’t confide in anyone. It simply happens. I refer you to a former blog I posted titled, “Do We Need To Bring Back The Draft?” You may read it here.
It’s reported Staff Sergeant Bales diagnoses were made in early 2012 before he was sent to Afghanistan. This should have been a clear sign to his command that he was not fit for combat duty.
While Staff Sergeant Bales appeared in his courtroom wearing an Army Dress Green uniform; Hasan held up his proceedings for eighteen months because he refused to shave his beard.
Hasan has yet to be convicted of anything. He’s still a military officer—hence, he’s still bound by military rules that state “males will keep their face clean-shaven when in uniform or in civilian clothes on duty.”
Exceptions are made to the clean-shaven requirement when specific military operations or a medical condition meets specifications.
I wonder, if Staff Sergeant Bales grew a beard, would that delay his court-martial by three years?
The defense attorney representing Staff Sergeant Bales told the judge hearing Bales’ case that he would need at least a year and a half to prepare Bales’ defense.
Some doubt as to Bales’ sole guilt has been brought forward in indirect accounts. It’s been suggested that one or more other soldiers may have been involved.
In Hasan’s case, he’s accused of firing in excess of two hundred rounds, killing thirteen soldiers and wounding thirty-two people! Hasan’s defense has asked the court to set aside the death penalty against Hasan. The defense is also arguing for a change of venue on the grounds that Hasan cannot get a fair trial at Fort Hood. Many of the wounded and family members of the deceased have said they will take off work to attend the trial of Hasan. They are desperate for closure. The new judge may grant the change of venue motion.
It seems to me the United States government is doing everything possible to not move forward with Hasan’s trial. And Hasan won the battle to keep his beard. It may be petty of me but I say let the man await trial in the general population at Fort Leavenworth—the only maximum-security prison within the Department of Defense, unofficially called ‘The Castle.’ I suspect Hasan’s beard would be gone within twenty-four hours of his arrival at Leavenworth!
As my grandmother was fond of saying, “Those folks over there must be drinking from a different cup.” I had the same thought when I read the military prosecutors at Fort Lewis argued Staff Sergeant Bales should not be allowed to have any expert witnesses testify about what effect his mental health might have had on his guilt. Nor do they want any medical expert to testify during the penalty phase of the trial, should it get that far, as to whether any history of traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder should spare him the death penalty.
In my opinion, justice is not being served in either case.
For either man to be executed, a military jury must unanimously find him guilty of the eligible crime and at least one aggravating factor that largely outweighs any mitigating circumstances. Premeditation must also be present.
The military justice system also requires the U.S. president to approve the execution of a service member, which last occurred in 1961.
What’s your opinion? Is justice being served? Do we have a dual set of standards exposed with the treatment of Major Hasan and Staff Sergeant Bales? I’d like to hear from you.