The AFCCA has set aside the death sentence in United States v. Witt, No. 36785, (opinion here) (link fixed) after finding that the trial defense team did not effectively investigate various types of mitigation evidence and concluding:

Thus, this undiscovered mitigating evidence, taken as a whole, “might well have influenced the jury’s appraisal” of the appellant’s moral culpability. Wiggins, 539 U.S. at 538 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 398). It would have considerably added to the mitigation evidence actually presented and would have served to counteract some of the aggravating evidence. As such, we find that had the members been confronted with this additional mitigating evidence, there is a reasonable likelihood that at least one member would have struck a different balance between the aggravating and mitigating factors and would have returned with a different sentence. Having found both constitutionally deficient performance as well as prejudice, we reverse the sentence in this case and remand for a new sentencing hearing.

Slip op. at 49.

Witt is one of only five prisoners on military death row. The other four are: Gray, Loving, Akbar, and Hennis.

11 Responses to “AFCCA sets aside death sentence in Witt”

  1. Bridget Wilson says:

    Good work, Dwight.

  2. Cap'n Crunch says:

    Amazing.  I wouldn’t have thought you’d have gotten a valid IAC claim with Frank Spinner defending the case.  Very, very interesting.

  3. Former DC says:

    So, if ewe want to save your client from death, just do a bad job.
    This appears political.  Bunch of liberal judges who disagree with the death penalty.

  4. stewie says:

    Not sure what sheep have to do with this, but no, this doesn’t appear political, and I doubt it was a “bunch of liberal judges” nor do I think the DC purposefully did a bad job.

  5. Matt James says:

    I would not characterize AFCCA a “bunch of liberal judges” by any stretch. 
    My question is: how does is it IAC for sentencing and not for findings? If DC was IAC for not following up the lead, how do they know that it would not have led to a viable defense during findings?
    CAAF writes:
    Once Dr. BM acknowledged his own inconsistencies and Dr. CR challenged the accuracy of Dr. BM’s analysis, trial defense counsel had a duty to reevaluate the case, their strategy, and anticipated presentation of evidence for both the findings and sentencing portions of the case. (emphasis mine)

  6. Phil Stackhouse says:

    I haven’t even looked at any legal issue in the case – however, I am happy that, for whatever reason, they determined a death sentence was set aside.  A barbaric penalty and it should be eradicated all together.

  7. David Bargatze says:

    The death penalty would be great if our system had 100% accuracy on findings. The wrongly convicted person on death row is unacceptable.
    That said, in this case, I am not at all troubled by ridding the world of a murderer who went back to the scene and killed two people because “he didn’t want to leave any evidence.” He broke down a door to the bathroom get at one of his victims, before breaking her arm and stabbing her five times, four in the back as she was curled in the fetal position. One can only imagine the terror she was experiencing in her last moments.
    You want to eradicate barbarism? Kill barbarians.

  8. Winston says:

    Well said David.  The death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous of murders as in this case.   The problem with the death penalty in the military is that the appellate litigation takes forever.  I’d almost advocate abolishing it just to save the government time and money in post-trial litigation.  Wasn’t the last execution in 1961?

  9. SFC V says:

    If giving someone a trial before imposing a death sentence is barbaric what word do you use to describe brutally murdering two people?

  10. stewie says:

    They can’t both be barbaric?

  11. curious fellow says:

    Does the government have a right to appeal to CAAF or is remand for re-sentencing automatic at this point?