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Soldier's case dominated by testimony on suicide

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm •  Published: December 11, 2012
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Before receiving the smock, he stood naked at attention one morning for a prisoner head count. Manning said a guard ordered, or implied, that he should put down a blanket he was using to cover himself.

"I had no socks, no underwear. I had no articles of clothing. I had no glasses," he said.

Manning's defense team also produced documents in which the military appeared to be mocking Manning. A former brig supervisor denied making light of Manning's homosexuality when he referred to the soldier's underwear as "panties" in a staff memo.

Also, Quantico's chief legal officer at the time, Lt. Col. Christopher Greer, made light of the underwear episode in an email with a Dr. Seuss parody: "I can wear them in a box. I can wear them with a fox. I can wear them in the day. I can wear them so I say. But I can't wear them at night. My comments gave the staff a fright."

During cross-examination of Manning, a military prosecutor held up a knotted bedsheet and got Manning to acknowledge that he fashioned a noose and contemplated suicide in Kuwait shortly after his arrest. Prosecutors also noted that Manning said on a form upon his arrival at Quantico that he was "always planning and never acting" on suicidal impulses.

Prosecutor Maj. Ashden Fein said during closing arguments that the defense had offered no evidence that anyone at the brig intended to punish Manning. He said the brig staff employed restrictions tailored to Manning's situation and behavior.

"When brig officials saw someone who was not like others ... they tried to figure it out to the best of their abilities on a daily basis," he said.

However, the government conceded that Manning was improperly held on suicide watch for seven days and should get seven days' credit at sentencing.

Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale and has been closely following the proceedings, said Manning might have done enough to persuade the judge to consider a sentence adjustment later on.

"I don't see this as a basis for tossing the entire case," said Fidell, a former Coast Guard judge advocate. "This may prove to be essentially a sideshow."

Manning, a native of Crescent, Okla., is accused of leaking classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. He is also charged with leaking a 2007 video of a U.S. helicopter crew mistakenly gunning down 11 men, including a Reuters news photographer.

Manning supporters consider him a whistleblowing hero whose actions exposed war crimes and helped trigger the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings in late 2010. In an online chat with a confidant-turned-government informant, Manning allegedly said he leaked the material because "I want people to see the truth."

He has offered to plead guilty to reduced charges. But the military judge hasn't ruled on the offer, and prosecutors have not said where they stand.

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Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report.