Court: Army Deserter Ehren Watada Cannot Be Retried Following Mistrial
Lieutenant Watada refused to deploy to Iraq in 2006 because he foolishly and ignorantly believes the Iraq war is illegal. He was charged for missing movement and conduct unbecoming. That trial ended in February 2007 after the judge declared a mistrial.
The case fell apart when it turned out that Watada had stipulated that he did not deploy with his unit as ordered and that he gave interviews without authorization. In the military judge’s view, Watada hadn’t realized the legal consequences of the stipulations, since they largely amounted to admitting the charges. The prosecution had already rested, but their case relied in large part on the stipulations which the military judge wanted to strike. The military judge decided that the best thing to do was declare a mistrial and start over.
Today, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle said the military could not retry Watada. Settle held that the military judge “did not exercise sound discretion” in ruling a mistrial. Accordingly, subjecting Watada to a second trial would violate his Fifth Amendment right against double jeopardy.
Watada is a bit of a figurehead for the Left, since he was the first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. The military is considering its options. It may go ahead with just the conduct unbecoming charges or appeal the district court’s decision or both.