Federal Court

Fall, '07 - Watada Case Moves to U.S. Federal Court

On June 22, 2006, U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Ehren K. Watada stepped forward as the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the Iraq War and occupation. He faced court martial and up to 6 years imprisonment for refusing to deploy and for speaking out against a war that he believes is illegal.

Lt Watada’s court martial in February, 2007, came to an abrupt end when a mistrial was declared.  The mistrial occurred after the jury had been impaneled and sworn in, prosecution witnesses had testified and the prosecution had rested its case.  In response to charges re-filed by the government, the Defense filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of double jeopardy with the court at Ft Lewis, followed by appeals to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Having exhausted all available military court remedies with respect to his double jeopardy petition, Lt Watada won an emergency stay of court martial in U.S. Federal Court on Oct 5, 2007.  The stay was extended to November 9, 2007

On November 8th, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle issued a Prliminary Injunction to stay any court martial proceedings pending outcome of the habeas corpus petition.

In his ruling, Judge Settle points out that the military judge likely abused his discretion in Lt. Watada's first trial and failed to adequately consider possible alternatives.

 “. . . This case concerns an alleged violation of the Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy Clause, which cannot be said to fall within a set of affairs that are peculiar to the jurisdiction of the military authorities. . . . The same Fifth Amendment protections are in place for military service members as are afforded to civilians. . . . To hold otherwise would ignore the many sacrifices that American soldiers have made throughout history to protect those sacred rights."

Last Updated ( Friday, 09 November 2007 )