How Just is our Military Justice?

Insight Investigative Report
May 13, 2001
By Kelly Patricia O’Meara

The strange case of a Marine convicted of murder has critics of the Uniform Code of Military Justice calling for a review of a system with a 98 percent conviction rate.

I don’t ask you to believe a word I say. I would prefer that you look at everything in my case as if you were pro-government. Don’t listen to my opinions. Look for yourself and make your decision. Read both sides and weigh it for yourself.”

These are the words of a convicted murderer, written in a letter to his mother from his prison cell. It is a request from a young man who has spent the last nine of his 29 years incarcerated at the federal penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., for a crime it is hard to believe he committed. A judge and jury, however, listened to the evidence, heard both sides and sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

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Augusta, Ga., attorney William Cassara has worked on the Holt case since late 1997 and te lls Insight, “I truly don’t believe Kevin did this crime, and it really bothers me. I’ve lost a lot of sleep on this one. When someone looks at spending the rest of their life in jail for something you don’t believe they did, it is really hard to handle.” Cassara continues, “What really ticks me off is that, if there is any question of Kevin’s guilt, why not conduct DNA tests on the jeans that Englert claimed were bloodstained?”

“We’ve made several requests in appeals and petitions on behalf of Kevin for further tests to be performed on the jeans,” Cassara explains, “and each request has been denied. The government refuses to conduct DNA testing on the clothes they used to convict Why? This is compelling evidence: The DNA test should be conducted so Finally we can put this issue to rest.”

That’s a systemic problem, of course. What else? Cassara tells Insight, “There are a number of problems with the system, beginning with the fact that the base commander basically controls the process. The base commander recommends whether the case is sent for court-martial, holds the purse strings and then picks the jury. That system is in dramatic need of reform.”

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