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Report from the closing
of the Sgt Evan Vela hearing

Los Angeles Times
November 13, 2007

At Camp Victory in Baghdad, lawyers for a U.S. sniper charged with murder accused a U.S. Army general of obstructing their client's right to justice in the closing of a hearing, known as an Article 32, that will determine whether Sgt. Evan Vela's case will go to court-martial.

Jim Culp and Dan Conway, the attorneys for Vela, said U.S. Army Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Multi-National Central Division south of Baghdad, had obstructed their client's quest for justice. Lynch was not immediately available for comment on their allegations.

Vela was charged with murder this summer after shooting an Iraqi national May 11. He is the last of three defendants from his sniper section who were alleged to have unlawfully shot the Iraqi. The other two, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley and Pvt. Jorge G. Sandoval Jr., were acquitted of murder but found guilty of lesser charges.

Vela's attorneys charged that Lynch, the commanding officer for the U.S. military division responsible for Babil, Najaf, Karbala and Wasit provinces, had blocked their request for an Article 32 hearing this summer after Vela initially waived his right to the hearing on the advice of his original court-appointed council. Lynch's ruling was later overturned by a military court, Culp said.

Lynch had refused to grant Hensley and Sandoval testimonial immunity for Vela's hearing, Culp said. The attorney requested that if the court-martial proceeds it be carried out in another venue, with another general assigned as the convening authority.

Maj. Devin Gray, who presided over the Article 32 hearings, said he hoped to reach a conclusion soon on whether Vela's case merited a court-martial.