Judge Lind was firmly in control of the courtroom throughout the proceedings. She exuded judicial demeanor. The trial counsel suggested a substantial amount of additional Care inquiry questions, and appeared concerned at one point that he might be suggesting too many. Judge Lind responded, “Take your time. It’s more important that we be accurate than that we be fast” — a sentiment she repeated later.
At one point when being questioned by Judge Lind about the legal advice Mr. Jensen gave, LTC accepted responsibility for his actions rather than trying to foist it onto Mr. Jensen. He said, “I understand that it was my decision and I made the wrong choice.” He later reiterated, “I had to make a choice. I chose incorrectly.” LTC Lakin was very softspoken throughout the 90-minute Care inquiry and on three occasions his voice wavered.
The military judge announced findings on the four Article 92 specifications at the end of the providence inquiry. When she asked the accused and counsel to rise, “Dr. Kate” — a prominent birther — rose in the audience and bowed her head (seemingly in prayer) as the guilty findings were announced.
The court-martial panel as finally seated includes five men and three women, all bird colonels.
Trial on the merits concerns just the missing movement offense.
In the case on the merits, an assistant trial counsel (I believe CPT Kobrenski) began his opening statement with something like: “The 32nd Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division deployed without its surgeon. The unit is still at FOB Bostick. Its surgeon is here in court, LTC Terrence Lakin.” He had several documents projected onto a wall during his opening statement, including LTC Lakin’s temporary change of station orders, the letter from COL Roberts ordering LTC Lakin to report to his office, and a counseling form that COL Roberts had served on LTC Lakin.
In his opening statement, Mr. Puckett said he agreed with “90 percent of what the prosecutor just told you,” but said it was irrelevant, arguing that the evidence the government discussed in its opening statement went to the orders violations that LTC Lakin had already pled guilty to rather than to the missing movement charge. At one point, Judge Lind interrupted the opening (which included a fair amount of argument) to tell Mr. Puckett not to discuss the elements of the offense yet. Mr. Puckett thereafter used the old TRIAD trick of prefacing everything he said with either, “The evidence will show” or “The evidence will not show,” and he got through the rest of the argument — er, opening — without being stopped again. Mr. Puckett’s opening focused on just one thing: whether LTC Lakin had a duty to be on the particular airline flight alleged in the order, USAirways Flight 1123 (I heard that number so much today I just typed it from memory without having to look it up in my notes or on the charge sheet) from BWI Airport on 12 April 2010. Mr. Puckett told the members, “He’s already pled guilty to what he did. He can’t plead guilty to what he didn’t do.” And he argued — er, stated — that the evidence wouldn’t show that anyone had ordered LTC Lakin to be on Flight 1123.
The government presented six witnesses during its case-in-chief. It then asked for, and received, judicial notice that the distance between the Pentagon and Fort Campbell is 722 miles. The government then rested. Trial will resume at 0900 tomorrow.
The government’s first witness was a major who served as the Medical Center’s Brigade S-3, who testified about e-mail exchanges with LTC Lakin to correct an error in his original orders to Fort Campbell and facilitate getting his corrected orders to him. He also testified about the difficulty of getting a last-minute replacement for LTC Lakin when he didn’t obey his orders. On cross, Mr. Puckett hammered the point that the major didn’t tell LTC Lakin to be on Flight 1123, LTC Lakin’s orders didn’t tell him to be on Flight 1123, and his orders allowed him to drive to Fort Campbell by POV. On redirect, the government brought out testimony that the major had arranged for LTC Lakin’s gaining command to pick him up at the Nashville airport.
The next witness was a budget analyst from the Pentagon’s health clinic who took care of travel. She testified that LTC Lakin chose the flight he wanted. She then sent him e-mails at his government and personal accounts with his itinerary. She confirmed that records showed he didn’t take his scheduled flight from BWI to Charlotte en route to Fort Campbell. On cross, Mr. Puckett emphasized that she had not ordered LTC Lakinto take any particular flight. He also brought out that if LTC Lakin had requested a different flight, she would have changed his flight. She also testified that if his orders allowed him to drive to Fort Campbell, she would have cancelled the flight had he so requested. And there would have been no cost to the government because DOD used fully refundable tickets. On redirect, the TC had the witness confirm that LTC Lakin never asked to change his flight.
Then came testimony from LTC Judd, the acting commander of the Pentagon’s medical clinic on the crucial date of 31 March 2010. LTC Judd testified about the counseling form that COL Roberts sent for LTC Lakin and indicated it directed him to comply with his TCS orders. In the aggravation department, LTC Judd also testified that when LTC Lakin refused orders on 31 March 2010, he asked if he could still take his scheduled pre-deployment leave. On cross, Mr. Puckett emphasized that the counseling sheet didn’t order LTC Lakin to be on USAirways flight 1123. Nor did the counseling statement or the orders themselves direct LTC Lakin that he had to travel by air. Nor did LTC Judd order him to be aboard flight 1123.
Then COL Roberts testified. As Judge Mathews the Greatest wrote earlier, the highest impact moment of the day occurred during his testimony. COL Roberts is such an impressive officer, he made the new Army dress uniform look good. And he’s so modest that his lapel partially covered his Medal of Honor ribbon. But I’m sure that every member realized that they were hearing from a Medal of Honor recipient. COL Roberts testified that the response he received to his order for LTC Lakin to report to his office on 31 March 2010 was, “You had your chance” — an obvious reference to LTC Lakin’s and Mr. Jensen’s trip to COL Roberts’ office the previous day, when COL Roberts was unavailable so they met with his XO instead. The TC conducting the direct skillfully looped the “You had your chance” answer into his next question on direct. In another poignant moment, COL Roberts identified the specific doctor who deployed to Afghanistan to take LTC Lakin’s place: MAJ Dobson.