Great news as the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces (CAAF) has agreed to hear issues in Michael’s case. Specifically the CAAF will be reviewing the Brady Violation (prosecutors non-disclosure of favorable evidence) and the Military Judge’s faulty self-defense instruction to the jury. Your many prayers of discernment have been answered and we are so grateful because the CAAF was our last chance to have Michael’s conviction overturned. It is important to note that the CAAF hears very few cases each year and fortunately Michael’s case will be one of them.
The time line for the appellate process begins with Michael’s attorney filing a brief on the two focused issues within 30-60 days and then the Military will respond in roughly the same amount of time. The CAAF can then set oral argument in Washington, DC and a decision thereafter. It is our hope that we could get a favorable decision by late summer. That seems like a long time, but it is a relatively compact time frame for an appellate process. I’ve included some media links below if you would like to learn more about the CAAF acceptance of Michael’s case:
On a much more somber note we received very disappointing news that the Army Clemency Board denied Michael’s annual request for Clemency (reduction in his sentence). We presented Michael’s case before the Army Clemency and Parole Board on January 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Board consisted of three Colonels, an Army lawyer, and an Administrator who had previously served on the Board. We presented Michael’s case to the Board for over an hour and primarily focused on the disparity of sentencing of Michael’s case compared to all other unpremeditated military cases occurring in the Iraqi theater and how Michael’s case had morphed from what the government originally tried as an execution to the current court rulings that Michael lost his right to defend himself.
Part of the duties of the Clemency Board is to create uniformity in disparate sentencing, so we presented seven other war zone unpremeditated murder cases to the Board to show that Michael’s sentence of 15 years was substantially higher than the other Soldier’s sentences. The seven other Soldiers cases resulted in sentences ranging from 1-11 years, with an average of 6 years. Unfortunately, the Board denied any Clemency to Michael and the ONLY suggestion they offered was that Michael in the future should stay out of trouble in prison. This is such a sham as Michael has been a model prisoner for almost 3 years, is teaching himself Spanish, and has read several hundred books on philosophy, politics, religion, and current events. Michael is not a threat to anyone and could easily assimilate into society if he were released.
We plan on writing to the Assistant Secretary of the Army Catherine Mitrano concerning the denial and failure to provide any constructive plan for what is expected of Michael to receive Clemency. We know that many of you wrote letters to Mitrano in support of Michael’s Clemency. Please consider drafting a short response to Mitrano expressing displeasure in the Board not granting Clemency to Michael whose sentence remains significantly higher than cases of a similar nature; and not outlining a plan for Michael to obtain Clemency in the future. Her address is:
Deputy Assistant Secretary Catherine Mitrano
c/o Army Clemency and Parole Board
1901 South Bell Street
Arlington, VA 22202
So the fight continues for justice for Michael. We are so thankful for all of your prayers and words of support. Michael remains very positive through all of this and is very focused on making the most of his situation. Please continue to send him your cards and letters as mail call remains his favorite time of the day!
Yours in the fight for justice,
Scott & Vicki Behenna