Behenna case deserves a hearing before Supreme Court

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: March 13, 2013

Self-defense? The military justice system says Behenna had no right to it. He surrendered this right by aiming a weapon at Mansur. Even if Behenna were conducting an unauthorized interrogation and wasn't on a designated battlefield, the case should not turn on the loss of a right to self-defense. Soldiers sometimes make snap judgments. They sometimes disregard orders. Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor for attempting to rescue fellow Marines in Afghanistan. Meyer disobeyed orders when he acted.

A key concern is the severity of the punishment and its political connection to a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq that was then being negotiated. The U.S. needed to show that wayward behavior by its troops would be dealt with seriously. But the bad actor in the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam served just 3 ½ years of house arrest in a case that involved the premeditated murder of 22 civilians. Behenna? He originally was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the unpremeditated murder of a terrorist.

We believe Behenna was convicted on insufficient evidence. His prosecution appears politically motivated. His sentence is disproportionately long. He's spent the past four years in prison. Whatever message that needed to be sent about what Behenna did has been received.

We won't make the case that he's a hero, but his case deserves a high court hearing. Behenna deserves mercy, for the sake of all soldiers faced with life-threatening situations — even when their own misjudgments get them into trouble.

1st Lt. Michael Behenna should be at home in Oklahoma. Instead, he just passed another day in a Kansas military prison.

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