A military court on Wednesday, Nov. 8, ruled to throw out the conviction of a U.S. Marine who urinated on the corpses of Taliban combatants in 2011, saying it appears that a top military official unfairly meddled in the case, reports the Washington Post.
The Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals announced the decision over half a decade after Staff Sergeant Joseph Chamblin was originally convicted of the offense, says USMC.
In the incident, a group of Marine snipers desecrated the corpses of three killed Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and posted a video of the act on YouTube.
The images went viral, making global headlines and prompting calls for disciplinary action against the Marines.
Rob Richards, former Marine sniper and one of the four shown urinating on the corpses, offers some background to the team’s actions in a video interview.
Richards says the capture-or-kill mission culminating in the videotaped incident targeted high-value members of a Taliban IED (improvised explosive device) squad responsible for killing a fellow Marine.
Knowing the Marines’ standard operating procedures are to retrieve the bodies of their fellow slain, Taliban hostiles dismembered the dead Marine and booby-trapped parts of his body with IEDs with the assumed intent of killing other U.S. soldiers, explains Richards.
After his conviction, Chamblin was cited as saying that battlefield logic justified the team’s actions because it served to undermine enemy morale.
“[If] anything, it was more of a psychological effect on the enemy because if an infidel touches the body, they’re not going to Mecca or paradise,” reports the New York Post. “So, now these insurgents see what happens when you mess with us.”
The new Navy-Marine Corps Court ruling revealed that now-retired Gen. James F. Amos, the highest ranking officer supervising the case at the time, and some of his staff allegedly took steps to “severely and systematically” influence the case to make sure the Marines embroiled in the controversy would be punished more harshly, says Fox.
Navy Cmdr. Marcus N. Fulton, author of the recent ruling, said reversing the conviction was a “drastic” but necessary step to strengthen public confidence in the justice system.
“The highest-ranking officer in the Marine Corps told [the military official supervising the case] that the appellant and his co-accused should be ‘crushed,’” the court ruling states, according to The Washington Post.
The ruling labeled Amos’s actions as an “unusually flagrant” instance of unlawful command influence, a legal concept in U.S. military law. This occurs when an individual of authority tries to sway military judicial proceedings.