In a stunning defeat for military prosecutors, Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge presiding over Watada’s court-martial, said he had no choice but to declare a mistrial because military prosecutors and Watada’s defense attorney could not reach an agreement regarding the characterization of a stipulation agreement Watada signed before the start of his court-martial. The government characterizes the stipulation agreement as an admission of guilt by Watada for “missing movement” and making statements against the
Eric Seitz, Watada’s attorney, said the stipulation Watada signed, however, was by no means an admission of guilt by his client. Rather, it was a statement of fact that his client believed the
Lt. Col. Head said he wanted to question Watada regarding the agreement to gain a better understanding of what Watada’s state of mind was when he signed it, but Seitz would not allow the judge to question his client unless he knew the questions in advance. Head said if he could not question Watada to ensure the accuracy of the document he signed prior to the start of the court-martial, he would have to throw out the agreement, meaning the charges against Watada would become null and void.
Issues surrounding the stipulation agreement came up when military prosecutors asked the judge to provide the military panel (similar to a civilian jury) deciding Watada’s fate with additional instructions before they returned a verdict.
Head said the basis of the additional instructions could result in questions about the “stipulation of fact” regarding Watada’s reasons for refusing to deploy to
Head excoriated military prosecutors in open court for producing the stipulation agreement hours before he declared the mistrial. He said he would allow the government to reopen the case against Watada, but it’s unclear whether the military will do so. Even if the case is reopened, it could be months before it ends up in court.
Watada was charged with “missing movement” to
Watada was also charged with two separate counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman based on exclusive interviews he gave to Truthout freelance reporters and a reporter from his hometown paper, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Those charges were dropped in exchange for Watada signing a stipulation agreement acknowledging that he gave the interviews. Moreover, Watada acknowledged in the stipulation agreement that he refused to accompany his Army unit to
Last month, Watada discussed his decision to publicly oppose the war during a speech at the Church of the Crossroads in
“I hated to leave my troops, but something had to be done to stop this insanity,” he said. “How could I order men to die for something I believe is wrong? Wearing the uniform is not, and is never, an excuse.”