Article 32 hearing testimony begins in death of Friedberg soldier
HANAU, Germany — Testimony that will determine if two 1st Armored Division soldiers accused of killing Pfc. Clint Lamebear should stand trial began Wednesday behind closed doors.
Article 32 hearings for Pfc. Jonathon Schroeder and Pfc. Andrew Humiston took place on Pioneer Casern. Both face murder and robbery charges, as well as conspiracy to commit robbery and obstruction of justice.
All of the testimony Wednesday was closed to the public. One hour into the proceedings, investigating officer Maj. John Jones asked reporters to leave the court before testimony began.
No specific reasons were given. The Army refused to release a list of witnesses scheduled to testify.
Testimony was to continue Thursday, and some of it may be open to the public, according to 1st AD officials.
On Nov. 15, Lamebear, an 18-year-old Navajo from New Mexico, joined four friends from the Friedberg-based 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment for a night out. The next morning, he was found dead in a garage in Sachsenhausen, Frankfurt’s pub district. German police said Lamebear suffered massive head injuries from a blunt piece of wood.
The next day, German police arrested Schroeder and Humiston in connection with Lamebear’s death. The suspects told police they stole 40 euro from Lamebear, German police said.
Court-martial rules allow the commander or the investigating officer to close a portion of the proceedings to “maintain the integrity of the military justice system and ensure due process for the accused,” Army officials said.
“It’s possible that they are concerned about pre-trial publicity,” said David Court, a civilian defense attorney from Frankfurt who has practiced in military circles for 26 years. Court is not representing either defendant.
From his experience, Court said, hearings are closed only when the case involves national security, embarrassing sexual facts, victims who are minors or cases where pre-trial press can sway potential jurors, he said.
During the brief public portion, Capt. Dean Lynch, Schroeder’s defense counsel, requested the hearings be postponed, citing several grievances.
Lynch said government attorneys withheld forensic evidence collected by investigators, including a full autopsy report from German investigators. A report from the Army doctor who conducted Schroeder’s psychiatric evaluation also was missing, Lynch said.
While the government provided more than 750 pieces of information to the defense, critical aspects were left out, Lynch said.
“We provided everything to defense that we have,” said Capt. Troy Stabinow, a government prosecutor.
Lynch also requested that Col. Michael Tucker, commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, testify.
Tucker accompanied Lamebear’s body back to Gallup, N.M., where he attended the soldier’s funeral.
Tucker had time to meet with the family and form an opinion, but did not act on defense requests until the weekend before the Article 32, Lynch said.
On Dec. 11, the defense requested a mitigation expert to assist with the case, which Tucker denied on Jan. 18, Lynch said. On Jan. 7, the defense requested the hearing be closed, he said.
Then on Jan. 14, Lynch asked for the hearings to be delayed until May 1 to allow defense staff to travel to the United States to investigate Schroeder’s past. Tucker denied that Jan. 18, Lynch said. The Army has not released the suspects’ hometowns.
Tucker’s brigade, made up of infantry and tank battalions, is amid gunnery training in Grafenwöher. Tucker could not comment on the case, he said.
Meanwhile, Lambear’s family in the States has been left in the dark, Lamebear’s uncle, Lauren Bonar, said. It’s been difficult to move on after such a tragedy, Bonar said.
Lambear’s mother, Kristen June, was awaiting word from the Army regarding the trials.
“She asked, ‘Are they trying to cover something up?’” Bonar said. “We’re here in America, thousands of miles away, and we don’t know.”