Court-martial begins for Spangdahlem airman accused in son's death
UPDATED SEPT. 8, 1:30 P.M. EDT
SPANGDAHLEM, Germany — Opening arguments in the court-martial of an airman accused of killing his infant son are scheduled to begin Friday at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
Airman 1st Class Horace Wickware pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, assault, negligent homicide and child endangerment relating to the alleged abuse and death of his 7-month-old son in October 2010.
Dressed in his formal blue attire, Wickware answered questions from the judge about his understanding of the charges and the court process.
Military judge Air Force Col. Dawn Eflein is presiding over the trial, which could take as long as two weeks. The trial was to start June 27, but Eflein granted a request for a continuance to allow the defense more time to prepare, an Air Force spokeswoman said at the time.
Cordale Wickware died Oct. 30 at a hospital in Trier, Germany. He died of brain trauma after being violently shaken; he also had other injuries that had previously gone undetected, including fractures to both arms and a leg, according to Joern Patzak, the lead prosecutor in the German case against Wickware’s wife.
Jennifer Wickware was convicted in May in German court of maltreatment, negligence with lethal consequences and failing to adequately care for her son. She was sentence to five years in jail.
Horace Wickware’s court-martial began Thursday with U.S. military prosecutors and defense lawyers questioning 21 jury pool candidates, all officers. Eight of the officers, led by a lieutenant colonel, were selected to serve on the jury.
After the eight-member panel was excused for the day, Eflein and attorneys discussed the admissibility of certain pictures of Cordale Wickware, how much the prosecution will be able to say about Jennifer Wickware’s prosecution, and other issues. Eflein said she will render her decisions Friday morning.
Air Force prosecutors intend to call to the stand more than 30 witnesses during the trial, said Capt. Benjamin Beliles, one of the lead prosecutors. At least half of the prosecution’s witnesses are German nationals, Beliles said.
Jennifer Wickware is to be a prosecution witness in her husband’s court-martial, but is not expected to testify Friday, according to prosecutors.
The jury consists of five male and three female officers.
Eflein told the jury members they can expect to serve on the panel “for at least the next week.”