Judge recesses court-martial in Iceland airman's murder
July 15, 2006
ARLINGTON, Va. — The curtain came down temporarily Friday on the court-martial of an airman accused of murdering a fellow airman, with the presiding judge calling a recess so both teams could gather additional material to bolster their cases.
On Thursday evening, the presiding judge, Air Force Col. William Burd, called a recess until Aug. 16.
The trial will determine the fate of 20-year-old Airman Calvin Hill from Warren, Ohio, who is facing the death penalty in the alleged murder of 20-year-old Airman 1st Class Ashley Turner on Aug. 14, 2005.
At the time of her death, Turner was waiting to testify against Hill in a court-martial in which he stood accused of stealing more than $2,000 from her by using her bank card.
Because Hill is facing the death penalty, military law requires a 12-person jury to hear his case. Four of those members can be enlisted, if Hill chooses.
Hill has plenty of time to decide, because the heart of his court-martial — the period in which the jury is seated and listening to testimony, presentation of evidence and arguments from the defense and the prosecution — is still at least eight weeks away, according to legal staffers from the judge advocate’s office of the 11th Wing at Bolling Air Force Base, where the trial is being held.
“Best guess at this point is early October” for the jury to be seated and opening arguments to begin, an 11th Wing paralegal said Thursday. The paralegal asked not to be named because he is not an official spokesman for the base or for Hill’s case.
But first, the court martial has to complete its “motions hearing,” a procedure that takes place in front of a judge, but before a jury is seated.
The motions hearing began July 12 and continued late into July 13, during which time the defense asked Burd to make some decisions that, had he ruled differently, would have dramatically changed the outcome of the case.
First, Burd turned down the defense’s motion to throw the case out completely (the defense had argued Hill’s right to a speedy trial had been violated.
Next, he declined the defense’s motion that the judge order a new Article 32 hearing, the military’s equivalent of a grand jury investigation.
During such hearings, the convening authority listens to witnesses, looks at available evidence, and then rules on which charges have sufficient evidence to merit going to a full-blown court martial.
The defense has also asked the judge to release Hill from his pre-trial confinement at Quantico Marine Corps Base, Va., where he has been held under maximum security conditions since May 15, or allow Hill to go elsewhere in the military prison system.
The law says that individuals are innocent until they are proven guilty, but that’s not the way Hill is being treated, Hill’s lead defense lawyer, Capt. Melanie Keiper, told the judge Thursday.
“He is being treated worse than people who are convicted felons.”