July 28, 2012
A comprehensive motion containing allegations and evidence from the defense for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, was filed on July 27. The 110-page motion, which Manning’s defense lawyer said should "shock the conscience of the court" during a motion hearing this month, included a request to the Fort Meade court to dismiss all charges with prejudice because he was subjected to "illegal pretrial punishment" while imprisoned at the Quantico Marine Brig for nine months.
The defense’s motion was not approved for publishing; however, two other motions involving the defense’s request for witnesses to appear during argument on "unlawful pretrial punishment" were posted to the defense’s website. One of the motions reveals Manning will likely take the stand to give testimony on how he was subjected to "unlawful pretrial punishment"—what many have called cruel and inhuman treatment or even torture. His testimony may include what he knows about a video of his interrogation at Quantico, which the government claims does not exist.
Argument on this motion (known as an Article 13 motion) was scheduled for the next pretrial motion hearing, August 27 to August 31. Coombs had scheduled his first public speaking engagement at the Georgetown Law University on August 26, where he would do a presentation specifically on how Manning had been treated at Quantico. But, on Friday the defense’s website reported it had received "additional information" that would impact their argument. The "information" would require "additional witnesses to be called." The argument on Manning’s "unlawful pretrial punishment" was postponed to October 1 through October 5. The public speaking event was rescheduled for the following Sunday, October 7.
One of the witnesses whose relevancy to the case is outlined is Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton, commander of the Joint Regional Correctional Facility (JRCF) at Fort Leavenworth. The motion to compel witnesses and evidence argues:
…[Hilton] can describe the process of PFC Manning being transferred from the [Quantico] to the JRCF on 19 April 2011. She can discuss the nine days PFC Manning spent going through the normal indoctrination process. She can also discuss why, after completing the indoctrination process, PFC Manning was held in medium custody will all privileges of a normal pretrial detainee. [Hilton] can testify regarding the JRCF’s determination that PFC Manning did not need to be held in a POI status. Finally, [Hilton] can testify regarding PFC Manning’s behavior since being held in medium custody status. Specifically, that PFC Manning has not engaged in any self-harm behavior, engaged in any assaultive behavior towards the guards, or made any attempt to escape from custody…
The government contested Hilton’s relevancy, but during the previous motion hearing Hilton was approved to testify by Judge Army Col. Denise Lind. (A request for UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez, who was prohibited from having an unmonitored visit with Manning, was denied.)
A suicide prevention smock, blanket, and mattress similar to what Manning was given to use were each requested by the defense so they could use the evidence for argument. The motion to compel contains an anecdote on an incident where Manning essentially was trapped in the smock:
Ma’am, on the above date and time while performing my duties as special quarters supervisor, I, [REDACTED], noticed Det. Manning [REDACTED] had his head and arms inside of his POI jump suit. I then woke up SND and told him that I need to see his face and to poke his head out. While doing what I instructed him to do, SND realized he was stuck and began to roll around, saying, "I hate this stupid thing." I then told SND to calm down and stand up and try to pull the POI jump suit over his head, but his arms were still stuck. I then called for the watch supervisor, [REDACTED], to come down to special quarters to look at the situation and get permission to open cell 191 and help SND. Upon [REDACTED] arrival, he evaluated the situation and opened cell l9l to help SND free his arms. Once SND was situated, I then told him not to put his head and arms inside his POI jump suit again, and that if he is cold to use his second POI blanket instead. The DBS was then notified and this report was written, and the incident was recorded on camera.
As the defense described during the previous hearing, after Manning was ordered to strip at night in March 2011, officers at Quantico required Manning to wear a suicide prevention smock. The "size and coarseness of the smock," according to the defense, made it difficult for Manning to sleep. It also was not designed for someone Manning’s size.
Manning was "also not allowed to have a pillow or sheets." What he was given was a mattress with a "built-in pillow" and a "tear proof suicide prevention blanket." The mattress was "uncomfortable and difficult" for Manning to sleep on. The "suicide prevention blanket was coarse and would frequently cause" rashes or burns.
Brig psychiatrists did not believe Manning needed to be put in a smock. They did not believe he needed to be given this kind of mattress or blanket either. (For a sensational and somewhat hilarious example of these suicide prevention materials being modeled, go here.)
During the previous hearing, the judge granted the defense’s request to order the government to produce these suicide prevention items so the defense could use them during argument on Manning’s confinement.
The motion on requested witnesses shows who else will be testifying and who the government did not decide to contest. One appears to be a former military officer who is an expert on solitary confinement. Another is someone who will testify on how there was an unspoken agreement among officers at the Brig that no one would challenge the conditions of Manning’s confinement. And another witness, who seems to have worked in the Brig, will testify on how officers made the decision to ignore behavioral health recommendations that might lead to his POI status being removed.
It is unknown what particular information led to a postponement of what could be the most critical hearing for the defense. The evidence could be discovery evidence the defense has been requesting from the government for months. It is a typical prosecutorial tactic to hand over evidence right before the defense is about to make an important filing or argue a motion to compel the government to hand over evidence.
Discovery evidence issues, largely created by the government, have already led the judge to push the date of Manning’s trial from September to November or January of next year. He has been in pretrial confinement for nearly eight hundred days and it is possible he could be in confinement for over one thousand days before his case goes to trial.