|Army can try Watada
again for refusing to go to Iraq
Seattle Post Intelligencer, The Associated Press, 6 July 2007
FORT LEWIS, Wash. -- Trying 1st Lt. Ehren Watada again for his refusal to deploy to Iraq won't violate his constitutional right not to be prosecuted twice for the same crime, an Army judge ruled Friday.
Watada's new lawyers, Kenneth Kagan and James Lobsenz, immediately filed notice they will appeal that double jeopardy ruling to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Arlington, Va.
Watada is charged with missing his unit's deployment in June 2006 and with conduct unbecoming an officer for comments he made about President Bush and the Iraq war. If convicted, he could be sentenced to six years in prison and be dishonorably discharged.
The lieutenant contends the war is illegal and he would be party to war crimes if he participated. His first trial ended in a mistrial.
The military judge, Lt. Col. John Head, presided over the first trial in February and ended it after questioning whether Watada understood a pretrial agreement he had signed. Head also refused Friday to disqualify himself from the case.
Head also ruled against Watada's defense team when they contended his decision to declare a mistrial in the first court-martial was wrong.
The developments are likely to delay the start of the second trial, which had been scheduled to begin July 23.
Watada, who is based at Fort Lewis, continues to perform administrative duties.
Kagan argued Friday that Head should step away from the case because the judge has created the impression that his mind is made up on some issues. The lawyer noted an e-mail that Head's supervisor sent the judge in February, indicating she believed the mistrial did not create double-jeopardy issues and that a second court-martial could proceed. Kagan said the e-mail suggested there was pressure on Head to rule a certain way.
Head denied he has any preconceived notions.
Lobsenz told the judge he erred in the first trial by not exploring alternatives to calling off the trial midway through. Head ruled against Watada on that issue without comment.
He is expected to issue a written decision early next week. The judge is also expected to rule on admissibility of evidence, including whether Watada may call witnesses to testify about the legality of the war. Head excluded such witnesses in the first court-martial.