Judge refuses to throw out Iceland murder case
July 14, 2006
BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, WASHINGTON, D.C. — The judge presiding over the court-martial of an airman accused of murder while stationed at Keflavik, Iceland, last August has refused to throw out the case.
The defense team had asked the judge to do so, citing how long the defendant had been incarcerated.
Airman Calvin Hill, who is facing the death penalty in the alleged murder of 20-year-old Airman 1st Class Ashley Turner, has been confined in military detention facilities in three different countries for more than 333 days.
Hill was taking into custody at 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 14, the night of the alleged murder, his defense team said, and has been in jail ever since, going from Keflavik to Mannheim, Germany, and later to Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia, where he remains.
But Air Force Col. William Burd ruled that the airman’s right to a speedy trial under the Constitution and the Unified Code of Military Code of Military Justice has been ensured, and he dismissed the motion.
Military law says that the government has 120 days to bring an accused to trial after he is put in pretrial confinement.
But the law also allows the clock to stop if the case’s “convening authority” — in this instance, Lt. Gen. Robert D. Bishop Jr., Air Command Europe commander — decides that the prosecution needs more time to deal with very complicated cases, especially if laboratories need to process complex scientific evidence.
Bishop stopped the clock in Hill’s trial so that the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Fort Gordon, Ga., could complete forensic tests on evidence ranging from Hill’s shoelaces, which yielded a drop of Turner’s blood and a blond hair, to a Capri Sun juice box found in a manhole, which, it turned out, did not have any connection to the case.
On Wednesday, Hill’s defense tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the judge that the Army lab had in fact returned most of the forensic testing results in November, and has spent the intervening time “dragging their heels.”
The length of time Hill has spent confined will make it difficult for witnesses to recall precisely what happened once the 12-servicemember jury is finally seated, Air Force Maj. Stephen Ganter, an assistant defense counsel, told the judge Wednesday.
Ganter also noted the “anxiety and concern of the accused,” saying that the pretrial confinement conditions at Quantico are “harsher than posttrial conditions” for servicemembers who are actually convicted.
The prosecution team argued that far from stalling, they have “touched the case every day,” and that in fact the investigation is still not concluded.
Investigators have conducted more than 200 interviews, as well as sending almost 90 pieces of physical evidence to the lab for forensic testing.
“This case wasn’t lagging,” Capt. Matthew Stoffel, assistant trial counsel for the prosecution, told the judge. “Nobody put this case to the side … the government has acted in a very diligent manner in bringing this case to trial.”