October 30, 2007
Anna Christopher, NPR
Emily Hellewell, NPR
TOP MARINE CORPS DEFENSE LAWYER ALLEGES ABUSES OF MILITARY JUSTICE SYSTEM ON NPR NEWS ALL THINGS CONSIDERED TODAY, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30
LT. COL. COLBY VOKEY ON GITMO: “IT’S A HORRIFIC PROCESS, IT’S A HORRIFIC PLACE... I THINK IT’S AN EMBARRASSMENT FOR THE UNITED STATES.”
EXCERPTS BELOW; AUDIO TO BE AVAILABLE AT 7 PM (ET) AT WWW.NPR.ORG
October 30, 2007; Washington, D.C. – In a report from NPR correspondent Daniel Zwerdling airing today on NPR News All Things Considered, Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey, one of the top lawyers in the Marine Corps, speaks openly about abuses of the military justice system he witnessed while working on such high-profile cases as the murder investigation in Haditha, Iraq, and the debate about detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Vokey tells Zwerdling that – in several cases he’s fought in recent years – military officials have tried to influence the judicial process by limiting interaction with clients, or assigning him less staff than the prosecution. “It made me very angry. It was very frustrating, in that we didn't have the people and the tools that we needed to adequately defend these marines in these crimes or any of the other marines. It really sends a message that Marine Corps’ trying to railroad these guys.”
In the NPR report, Vokey also describes alleged abuses against one of his clients while a detainee at Guantanamo, including being made to sit in his own urine while having his hands and feet chained together for several hours. Vokey says of Guantanamo: “I think it's horrific. It's a horrific process, it's a horrific place. I find it very, very offensive just being a part of it, and I think it's an embarrassment for the United States.”
Vokey is based at Camp Pendleton in California, and has served almost 20 years with the Marines. He was recently fired – and then later reinstated – as a Regional Defense Counsel, overseeing all Marine defense counsels in the Western United States. He tells NPR he plans to leave the military in May 2008: “I am fed up. I think changes to the system are well overdue, and it's a little frustrating when you see problems are highlighted time and time and again.”
Zwerdling also speaks with retired Marine Colonel Jane Siegel, who used to manage the Marine Corps’ entire defense team, about Vokey’s career. Siegel calls Vokey “one of the best,” and says she thinks he was fired because of his vigorous defense of the Constitution. “I believe that Colby Vokey was pulled out of his position because he's doing too good a job. And, I think that the people in Washington, D.C., don't like that.”
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