The Fate of a Nation

April 24, 2012

Michael Behenna’s civilian hearing for appeal took place yesterday in DC. I was privileged to attend thanks to the thoughtfulness of my hosts Bev Perlson of the Band of Mothers and Jean Morris and her husband James.

We are there to support Michael Behenna, a young Lieutenant being wrongly incarcerated in Leavenworth for killing an Al Queda terrorist. We are there to support the Behenna family and all of the families of all the patriot soldiers being held in Leavenworth. If not for their willingness to serve, they wouldn’t be there. Their families were prepared for many outcomes for their sons as a result of their service, but being a number in prison was surely not one of them.

Learn more about Michael Behenna’s story here.

As we go through the security screening in the courthouse lobby where a man’s fate will be decided, I pray. As we walk up the stairs to the anteroom of the courtroom, I pray. As we gaze into the hopeful but anxious eyes of the family members, as we greet each other, I pray. I pray for Michaels spirit and that of his fiancee Shannon and of course for everyone who loves him.

Yet each conversation held between family and friend at this meeting is in itself a prayer, a prayer that our hopes for Michaels freedom will not only be heard, but that we will see his smiling face out and among the free people he has sacrificed so much to protect.

So many appeals have been denied in the military court, for reasons that mere mortal citizens cannot fathom, dare we believe that this time, in civilian court, reason and righteousness might prevail? We are united in our fear of believing that it might be so, lest Michael’s hopes be dashed again.

The courtroom is full but quiet and orderly, the military on the right and the family and friends on the left. The imposing government architecture does its job reminding us of our place in the world, or at least in this court. The atmosphere is positive yet still.

As the trial begins, we are all frustrated by the acoustics of the marble-encased room. We can hear the judges questions, but not the responses of the attorneys. The family and friends of Michael are so well versed in the details of the shooting, that it almost doesn’t matter. In a strange way, hearing only the judges questions helps concentrate our minds as to where their prudence might be taking them. We sit hanging to their every word, every pause, every nuance as we struggle to be objective observers in a way that can never be.

I am relieved that the panel of 5 judges seem to have their questions lasered on the cruxes of the matter at hand. They know exactly where to place their legal scalpels. I am relieved that they seem to drill in on the many flaws in the governments case. The judges questions appear to support the belief in the quite unusual and specifically American concept that is the burden of the government to prove its case, not the burden of the accused to prove his innocence.

The questions of the judges are wise, and provoking, focusing on matters of the law. They frequently send both the government and the civilian attorneys scrambling for precise references. I find comfort that through the precision of their disciplined and relentless approach to the dissection of the conduct of Michaels trial, that they will see through the flawed government conviction of a patriot and set him free.

Lets all pray that justice will be done as Michael is set free and faith in our justice system can be as well.

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