Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of being behind the biggest leak of state secrets in US history, is being denied a fair trial because the army is withholding from him crucial information that might prove his innocence or reduce his sentence, his defence team is arguing.
With Manning’s court-martial approaching in September, his legal team has released details of what they claim is a shocking lack of diligence on the part of the military prosecutors in affording him his basic constitutional rights.
The stakes are high, with Manning facing possible life imprisonment for a raft of charges that include “aiding the enemy”.
Manning’s main civilian lawyer, David Coombs, has filed a motion with the military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, thatsets out a catalogue of delays and inconsistencies in the army’s handling of the case.
In particular, he claims the government has failed to disclose key evidence that could help Manning defend himself against the charges.
Almost two years after Manning was arrested, the military has not yet completed a search even of its own files to see if there is any material beneficial to the defence – as it is legally obliged to do.
“That the government cannot get its ducks in a row with respect to discovery which is clearly under its control does not inspire confidence,” Coombs writes. […]
Disclosure by the prosecution of information that could be useful to the defence – known as “Brady materials” – has been a cornerstone of American criminal law since the US supreme court laid down a ruling making it obligatory in 1963.
The rule applies equally to civilian and military prosecutors, under the 14th amendment of the US constitution.
Yet Coombs describes an astonishing lack of diligence on the part of the military authorities to meet its obligations. Coombs writes that he has just learned that it took army prosecutors more than a year even to start the process of searching for Brady materials.
Manning was first charged as the WikiLeaks suspect on 5 July 2010, but it was not until 29 July 2011 that the government sent out a memo to relevant army officials asking them to search for and keep information that should be disclosed to defence lawyers.
On top of that unexplained delay, the army then discovered on 17 April 2012 – fully nine months after the request went out and 21 months after Manning was charged – that absolutely no action had been taken by any of those officials.
It wouldn’t be a show trial if the defense could win, silly.