The Edmond Sun

Local News

January 24, 2013

Behenna: Military injustice contributed to son's fate

EDMOND — Military investigative malfeasance was far worse in his son’s case than anything in civilian criminal justice, Scott Behenna told a Defense Department panel this week.

In July, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked the Defense Legal Policy Board to review cases involving soldiers killing civilians in combat zones. The panel is headed by former Defense Department General Counsel Judith Miller and retired Army Maj. Gen. Walter B. Huffman. It provides the secretary of defense with independent advice on military issues, and can propose changes to department policies and goals.

Edmond soldier Michael Behenna is serving a 15-year sentence in Fort Leavenworth after being convicted of unpremeditated murder in the killing of an Iraqi national in 2008.

In July, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled the soldier erred by taking the Iraqi, a purported terrorist linked to the deaths of several members of Behenna’s platoon, to a culvert for an unauthorized interrogation. In the process he gave up any right to defend himself no matter what happened, the court ruled.

On Tuesday, Scott and Vicki Behenna, Michael’s parents, testified before the Defense Legal Policy Board.

In his remarks submitted to the panel, Behenna documented his career with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, which included investigating numerous murders, being a firearms instructor for 20 years and teaching judgmental shooting to law enforcement officers. He currently is an intelligence analyst for the FBI.

Behenna said earlier in the military legal process, after hearing the evidence in their son’s case, he and Vicki, a federal prosecutor, were convinced of Michael’s innocence. They were shocked by the conviction, which led them to do some soul-searching regarding their own criminal justice work.

“After careful reflection, we concluded the blatant disregard for thorough investigations by (Army Criminal Investigation Command), and the unfair and conviction-focused approach by the prosecutors we observed in Michael’s trial, were far worse than anything we observed in civilian criminal justice,” Behenna said.

He said investigators owe the community, victims and any potential suspect the best possible effort to secure all evidence from the scene of the crime, as that evidence should be the mainstay of any viable prosecution.

Forensic evidence, Behenna noted, is used to determine not only who was responsible, but what are the likely scenarios in which the actions could have occurred.

In Michael’s case, the prosecution presented no physical evidence to support their claim that Michael executed Ali Mansur while in a seated position, Behenna stated. In fact, Behenna continued, the only available evidence — bullet trajectories, a flattened bullet shot under Mansur’s right arm — would discredit the government’s theory and lead to only one conclusion, that Mansur had to be standing with his arm outstretched, not sitting when the shooting occurred.

The forensic evidence was largely recovered by a platoon first lieutenant with no crime scene training, Behenna stated. Michael’s defense expert testified that there should have been some fine blood spatter on the walls that would have indicated the height of the shots when fired, he stated.

Defense experts testified they believed there was “a very good chance that there was that evidence (blood spatter on a wall), but it was either not found or not documented,” Behenna stated.

“I also feel the bullets that exited the body would have made an impression in the concrete walls of the culvert possibly providing a height of each shot, but none of this evidence was recovered,” Behenna stated.

Vicki Behenna said she wanted the panel to hear about the course of events that led to the incident in the culvert. They included the earlier organized attack on Michael’s platoon in April 2008, the fact that the Iraqi national was identified in court as a terrorist, a lack of military investigative resources and a lack of fairness in the military justice system, she said.

Behenna said other issues that came up included the possibility of command influence in the decision to prosecute Michael and mandatory sentencing for soldiers. She said she hopes as a result of the hearing related policy will be changed.

The Defense Legal Policy Board will submit advice and recommendations along with a copy of its report on the hearing within 210 days. Prior to that date, the document will be submitted in draft form to the Military Department for comment.

The Behennas recently filed on behalf of their son a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, the last legal venue available to the soldier. It would be the first time his case would be heard outside the military justice system.

On Feb. 7, the Behennas will be back in Washington for Michael’s fourth clemency hearing. Next year, he will be eligible for parole after serving a third of his sentence, which began in March 2009. Vicki Behenna said other soldiers in similar situations are not getting parole. | 341-2121, ext. 108

Text Only
Local News
  • Candidates disagree with White House’s minimum wage

    Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the state needs to have serious growth in high-paying living wage jobs that will provide for Oklahomans.
    Dorman cautioned that while Oklahoma’s jobless rate improved in June, the state’s rankings for the well-being of children has dropped from 36th to 39th place, for one of the largest declines in the U.S., according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Project.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Gov. Mary Fallin said this week.
    The state’s unemployment rate was more than 7 percent when Fallin was elected during the brink of the Great Depression. Alex Weintz, communications director for Fallin, pointed out that per capita income in Oklahoma was second in the nation from 2011 to 2013.
    The non partisan Congressional Budget office reported in February that raising the minimum wage could kill a half-million jobs in the United States.
    According to The Washington Times, CBO analysts reported, “Once the other changes in income were taken into account, families whose income would be below six times the poverty threshold under current law would see a small increase in income, on net, and families whose income would be higher under current law would see reductions in income, on net.”
    President Barack Obama in February signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.
    Weintz said the governor believes tax cuts have enabled families to keep more of their money.
    No one is talking about the under-employment rate of families working minimum wage jobs, Dorman said.
    “It’s all fine and good when you have fast-food jobs that don’t cover the bills and that counts toward your unemployment rate.”
    Oklahoma’s minimum wage reflects the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, a standard set in 2009.
    Fallin signed legislation this year to prohibit municipalities from raising their local minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.
    “If the minimum wage goes up to $15 in Oklahoma City, all of the sudden you would drive retail, business, service industry locations outside of the city limits and that would be detrimental to the economy, consumers and to businesses,” Weintz said.
    Fallin has said that she opposes raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma because it would stifle job growth for small business and lay off workers. A lot of people earning the $7.25 minimum wage are part-time workers and many of them are students, Weintz said.
    “We believe raising the minimum wage is not a good way to address poverty,” Weintz said. “A lot of people earning the minimum wage are actually people living with their parents or other people who are employed full time, and in many cases they are middle class families. So it’s not a good tool to reduce poverty.”
    Dorman said he does not necessarily support the proposed $10.10 an hour minimum federal minimum wage that is being discussed by Congress.
    “I think we need to have a living wage in Oklahoma that is reflective of our economy,” Dorman said.
    About 102,300 jobs have been added in Oklahoma since Fallin took office in January 2011, according to her office.
    The cost of living in the national economy tends to be higher in some other states, Dorman said.
    So a minimum wage increase should be tied to economic gains so that families can pay their bills and afford to care for their children, Dorman said.
    Independent candidates for governor include Richard Prawdzienski of Edmond, Joe Sills of Oklahoma City and Kimberly Willis of Oklahoma City.

    July 24, 2014

  • Forced Entry 1 Firefighters sharpen forced entry skills

    Of all burglaries, 60.5 percent involved forcible entry, according to recent FBI statistics.
    As a result, many home and businesses are installing a greater number of complex mechanisms on their doors and windows. Edmond Fire Maj. Joe Elam said 10 local firefighters recently sharpened their skills during a forcible entry class offered by IRONS and LADDERS, LLC., of Lawrence, Kan.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Preparing for a fall home garden

    Gardening can be a year-around activity for those that have an appreciation for fresh and nutritious vegetables. Some of the best vegetables in Oklahoma are produced and harvested during the cooler weather of fall. Successful fall gardens, however, require some work in the summer growing season. Factors to be considered are location, soil preparation, crops to be grown and how/when to plant.  
    The major consideration for garden placement is sunlight. All vegetables require some sunlight; the most popular vegetables require full sun. “Full” sun means at least 8 hours of intense, direct exposure.

    July 24, 2014

  • OBU dance team celebrates National Dance Day

    In 2010, “So You Think You Can Dance” co-creator and Dizzy Feet Foundation co-president Nigel Lythgoe created National Dance Day in an effort to help people embrace dance and combat obesity on the last Saturday in July.
    This year, on July 26, Oklahoma Baptist University’s dance team will host a fundraiser that allows participants to dance all day for $30. The fundraiser will be in the Noble Complex on OBU’s campus.
    Cami Gower, an OBU junior and co-captain/co-founder of the dance team, said the team’s officers have been planning for their upcoming season since April. Gower is a graduate of Deer Creek High School.
    “Since then we have been coming up with better ways to reach the community with dance,” she said. “This day of dance was a great way to do it and help the team raise funds.”

    July 24, 2014

  • Blackmon.jpg Local cops arrest NFL player on marijuana complaint

    The Edmond Police Department has released the incident report related to the arrest of ex-Oklahoma State star and current NFL player Justin Blackmon.
    Blackmon, 24, a product of Plainview High School in Ardmore, is a 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver in his second year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. At Oklahoma State University, he was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s best collegiate wide receiver.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Women aided in Afghanistan, Rwanda through AT&T

    AT&T renewed its support for the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS program Wednesday by making a $125,000 contribution to the program at Lakeside Women’s Hospital in Oklahoma City.
    AT&T has been a major supporter of Peace through Business since its inception in 2007, said Steve Hahn, the new president of AT&T Oklahoma.

    July 23, 2014

  • Salvation Army pantry closes until September

    Due to an increase of need, The Salvation Army in Oklahoma County has distributed all of its food supply. July 23 was the last day of the food pantry operations. In preparation for the move to the Center of Hope at 1001 N. Pennsylvania, The Salvation Army Client Choice Pantry will not resume operations until September.

    July 23, 2014

  • Payne Co. crash sends Guthrie man to hospital

    A two-vehicle crash in Payne County sent a Guthrie man to a local hospital, a trooper stated.
    Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper James Ritze stated a 2005 Jeep SUV and a 2013 Ford pickup were about a mile east of Perkins headed west on State Highway 33. When the pickup slowed for a truck pulling out of a private drive, the SUV struck the rear of the pickup, Ritze stated.

    July 23, 2014

  • 7-11 Second Street to get new 7-Eleven

    The amended site plan for a new 7-Eleven Convenience Store was approved by the Edmond Planning Commission this week by a vote of 4-0.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Guard adds jobs, revenue to Oklahoma

    During a Wednesday morning press conference at Joint Force Headquarters, members of the Guard touted the findings of an in-depth study addressing impacts the organization has in areas including gross state product, employment and tax revenue.

    July 23, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Video
What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
     View Results