Legal issues delaying marine’s rape appeal
January 28, 2007
Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith’s rape conviction appeal is crawling through the Philippine judicial system with no definitive time line for when his case may be resolved, according to one of his attorneys.
Jose Justiniano, lead counsel for the 21-year-old U.S. Marine, said several issues regarding Smith’s custody and conviction are before the court. Among them:
n Smith has appealed his conviction on grounds that lower court judge Benjamin Pozon erred in his ruling. Smith’s attorneys still are waiting for the court of appeals to ask them to submit their briefs, Justiniano said. “My information is that all the records of the case have not been transmitted to the court of appeals,” he said of the reason for the delay.
n The private attorney for “Nicole,” Smith’s victim, filed a petition with the Supreme Court, Justiniano said, questioning the validity of the agreement between the U.S. and Philippine governments to transfer Smith from Makati city jail to the U.S. Embassy in Manila without a court order during his appeal process. Smith’s lawyers and Solicitor General Antonio Eduardo Nachura must file their comments by Feb. 1, Justiniano said.
n “Nicole” also asked the court of appeals to dismiss Smith’s appeal, arguing that his transfer to the embassy in effect amounted to escaping from confinement, Justiniano said. Smith’s lawyers must submit comment on that by Feb. 1 as well.
Smith continues to be detained at the U.S. Embassy, Justiniano said, where U.S. guards watch him around the clock. He wears civilian clothes, Justiniano said. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported last week that due to building renovations, Smith would be moved from his current location to a converted cargo container on the embassy compound. The paper quoted embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop as saying that Smith would be “moved slightly to a different facility.” Lussenhop could not be reached Friday for comment.
Citing a conversation with his client, Justiniano said Smith’s parents are to visit soon from St. Louis, though the attorney doesn’t know when. Smith has been receiving a lot of support letters from Filipinos, Justiniano said.
“The last time I saw him was about two weeks ago,” he said. “He looks OK to me.”
Smith, assigned to the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, was sentenced Dec. 4 to 40 years in prison.
Three Marines from the same unit were acquitted in the case. Marine officials have said Lance Cpls. Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis received an Article 15, while Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier was punished in a summary court-martial. The Marines cited privacy guidelines in declining to answer queries regarding punishment in the nonjudicial actions.
Stars and Stripes reporter David Allen contributed to this story.