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