A military court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of a former Marine sniper involved in urinating on dead Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan in 2011 after evidence emerged that a top general meddled in the case to ensure a harsh punishment, reports said.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Chamblin was convicted almost five years ago and sentenced to 30 days confinement, had his pay docked and was demoted over a video that showed the Marines urinating on enemy corpses, The Washington Post reported.
A new ruling revealed that now-retired Gen. James F. Amos and some of his senior staff apparently tried to “severely and systematically” influence the case to ensure the Marines who were involved in the controversy would face harsher punishment.
Amos allegedly told then-Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser that the Marines need to be “crushed” and discharged from the Corps over their behavior.
Waldhauser, who was investigating the case, said Amos tried to pressure him into issuing the Marines a general courts-martial – the highest form of criminal trial – and threatened to make someone else the authority in the cases after Waldhauser refused to do so.
“I responded, ‘No, I’m not going to do that,’ stating that I did not believe any of the cases warranted General Court-Martial,” Waldhauser said in a statement, the Post reported.
Amos replaced Waldhauser a few days later with another military official, the report said.
Navy Cmdr. Marcus N. Fulton, who wrote the recent ruling, said overturning the conviction is a “drastic remedy” but was needed to “foster public confidence in the … fairness of our system of justice.”
“The highest-ranking officer in the Marine Corps told (the officer, supervising the case) that the appellant and his co-accused should be ‘crushed,’” the court wrote in its ruling, according to The Post. “This is an unusually flagrant example of UCI (unlawful command influence). We find that UCI this direct, and occurring at this level, is highly corrosive to public trust in this proceeding.”
Chamblin said at the time that he does not regret his actions, adding that he would do it again if he had the chance. “[If] anything, it was more of a psychological effect on the enemy because if an infidel touches the body, they’re not going to Mecca or paradise,” he told reporters at the time, according to the New York Post. “So, now these insurgents see what happens when you mess with us.”