Sgt. Derrick Miller, 27, of Hagerstown, MD, was convicted this past week of the premeditated murder of an Afghan man in 2010. The husband and father of two was assigned to a Connecticut National Guard unit and attached to the 101st Airborne Division at the time of the shooting in Eastern Afghanistan. After joining the National Guard in 2006, Miller had three combat deployments and had recently been promoted.
From the AP last week:
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - A US Army National Guardsman was sentenced yesterday to life in prison with the chance of parole for the murder of an Afghan civilian.
Sergeant Derrick Miller, 27, of Hagerstown, Md., shook hands with several soldiers in his unit after the 10-member military jury delivered the sentence after two hours of deliberation. He was found guilty of premeditated murder.
Clue #1 to smelling yet another rat in our military justice system. Miller is still on good terms with fellow soldiers. Would several soldiers want to shake hands with a "premeditated murderer"?
His attorney had argued during two days of testimony that Miller acted in self-defense when he shot a man last September. The military has identified him as Atta Mohammed but his name was not used in court.
Defense attorney Charles Gittins told the jury that Miller stopped the man for questioning when he walked through a defensive perimeter that Miller’s unit had set up around a mortar unit.
What was an innocent bystander doing walking through a defensive perimeter?
Gittins said Miller believed the man could be a threat to his unit and that during questioning the man tried to grab Miller’s weapon.
But Specialist Charles Miller, an eyewitness and guardsman from Maryland, testified he heard Miller threatening to kill the man if he did not tell the truth and then straddling the man, who was lying on his back, before shooting him in the head.
He said, he said -- but not much information in between. I decided to email defense attorney Charles Gittins.
Q:Hello, Mr. Gittins,
Saw a brief story about Sgt. Miller's sentencing (first I'd heard of
the story). Can you send me any more information about his case?
Charles Gittins replied:
In a contested jury trial at Fort Campbell KY, SGT Miller was sentenced to life in prison with the opportunity for parole (in 10 years) for killing an Afghan civilian when the civilian grabbed his weapon during harsh questioning. The civilian was identified as a possible insurgent who had been walking through SGT Miller's platoon defensive perimeter observing their defensive positions. After the shooting the unit was attacked in a complex attack and the ANA soldiers assigned to the platoon pulled back prior to the start of the shooting and hid behind a building.
The witnesses against SGT Miller were a soldier who originally supported SGT Miller's version of events, but he changed his story when he was threatened with being named an accessory and being placed on legal hold so he could not de-mobilize. The other witness was an Afghan translator who was promised US Citizenship in exchange for his testimony. He was brought to the US in January and has been living on Fort Campbell in a base hotel at $630 per month with a dedicated van to take him wherever he wants to go, and has been fed at taxpayer expense. Basically, the two witnesses had every incentive to testify the way the Government wanted them to -- consistent with guilt rather than SGT Miller's claim of innocence. SGT Miller cooperated in every way from the date of the shooting, but his command lacked the moral courage to stand behind him.
I wrote back:
If I say I'm not shocked, it's only because I've been following such cases for years now. But I'd also be exaggerating, because what you describe is shocking in a most disgusting way. Who, in your opinion, is this show trial designed to play to?
The Afghans that run that area of the country. This guy [the victim] was an insurgent but no one in the fricking military is willing to say so to the two-faced Afghans. They had a firefight that night that was designed to kill Americans -- all the while the ANA soldiers were nowhere to be seen. They disappeared just before the shooting started and the fire on American positions was such that the guys targeted were sure that they [the insurgents] had recon of American positions due to this guy and his two military-aged males accompanying him reporting on the positions.
That we waste ONE American life in defense of that country is anathema. The country is completely corrupt; they are cowards unwilling to defend their own country, and we have gotten so deep in defending an indefensibly corrupt regime we cannot extricate our military in a way that allows us to maintain our honor.
If President Karzai was on fire I wouldn't urinate on him to put out the fire. Feel free to quote me.