Soldier acquitted of charges in gang death
October 5, 2007
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Staff Sgt. Alre Hudson was found not guilty Thursday on all charges relating to the 2005 death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson.
The seven-member jury delivered its verdict at 8 p.m. after 5½ hours of deliberation.
“The system of military justice works,” said David Court, Hudson’s defense attorney. “I’m glad for my client that it’s finally over.”
Hudson becomes the first soldier to be acquitted in Johnson’s death. This July, two soldiers were convicted and sentenced to jail time for their roles in killing Johnson during an initation into the Gangster Disciples.
Johnson’s mother, Stephanie Cockrell, was in Kaiserslautern for the court-martial and was displeased with the verdict.
“I wonder how it feels to get away with murder,” Cockrell said. “I wonder how [Hudson] sleeps at night. I wonder what he does when he looks in the mirror.”
Hudson had faced 14 years in jail if convicted on all charges.
Much of this week’s court-martial — which began Tuesday — centered on the credibility of eyewitness Pfc. Latisha Ellis. Ellis testified that Hudson punched Johnson 20 times during initiation.
In her closing statement, prosecuting attorney Capt. Rebecca DiMuro said Ellis’ testimony was supported by evidence. Details Ellis gave about gang members and initiation practices were consistent with testimony from gang expert John Bowman, a detective with Killeen (Texas) Police Department, DiMuro said.
“Private Ellis does not stand alone when you assess her credibility,” DiMuro told the jurors. “There is evidence that bolsters her, that explains things.”
Court made much of the point that no evidence — other than Ellis’ testimony — linked Hudson to the gang or Johnson’s death. As such, Court sought to attack Ellis’ credibility. In his closing argument, Court noted conflicting statements between Ellis’ testimony and that of her former fiancee, Sgt. Randy Berry, as to whether Ellis went to Johnson’s barracks after the beating.
“There is nothing but Ellis,” Court said. “Members of the panel, she is not worthy of your belief.”