Okinawa Marine admits killing his daughter
Sergeant pleads to lesser charge, but murder case remains
By DAVID ALLEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 28, 2008
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Marine Sgt. Bassa Cisse admits he was responsible for the death of his 6-year-old daughter a year ago when he disciplined her in their base apartment.
But he didn’t mean to kill her, he said during a hearing Friday after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of negligent homicide.
However, the prosecution contends Cisse meant to kill his daughter and the court-martial on a charge of murder will continue Monday before a jury panel.
"The evidence supports the murder charge," chief prosecutor Maj. Gregory Palmer said after the hearing. "I think he wanted to kill her."
Cisse’s chief attorney, Neal A. Puckett, insisted the death was a case of negligent homicide. He said he will submit evidence that Cisse, who served two terms in Iraq, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"It’s a mitigating factor," he said.
"People are more irritable and quick to anger when they have PTSD. They have a lower anger threshold."
During the two-hour hearing before Judge Lt. Col. David Oliver, Cisse, 34, said he was angry at his daughter and, as she attempted to lay out clothes to dry on the family’s second-floor balcony Oct. 21, he backhanded her so hard she fell forward and cracked her head on the cement floor.
Then, Cisse admitted, he stepped on her body with his full weight as he walked back into the apartment.
The beating took place just six weeks after the girl, from a previous relationship Cisse had with a woman in Africa, came to live with him on Okinawa.
And it was just a week after her sixth birthday.
Cisse, of Marine Wing Communications Squadron 18, 1st Marine Air Wing, has been in pretrial custody at the brig on Camp Hansen since the incident.
During the pretrial hearing Palmer argued that Cisse was frustrated with his daughter’s inability to adapt to her new life.
Cisse admitted Friday that he was upset with his daughter’s behavior the day of the beating.
"She pooped in her pants, sir, and it made me angry, sir," he told the judge.
According to testimony at the December hearing, Cisse allegedly made his daughter strip and wash her clothes in the bathtub and then, while still naked, hang them on the balcony.
During Friday’s hearing he said he hit her when she failed to spread her clothes out to dry.
"I backhanded her," Cisse said. "On my way into the house, I stepped on her."
Cisse, who said he weighs 203 pounds, said he pressed upon her with his full weight.
An autopsy showed the girl had a fractured skull and significant bleeding and swelling of her brain. She also had a lacerated liver.
Cisse admitted he used excessive force.
He also said his actions brought discredit on the military, an important factor in proving guilt for negligent homicide.
"We’re supposed to kill enemy combatants, not our dependents," he told the judge.
The court-martial on the murder charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, continues Monday with a panel of four officers and four enlisted members.