Navy-Marine Corps Court Overturns Manslaughter Conviction

The Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals recently decided the case of United States v. London. Lance Corporal (LCpl) London was in Boston with two friends when they encountered several members of the Emerson College men’s and women’s lacrosse teams at an apartment building. LCpl London’s group of three spoke for a while with a group of six men’s lacrosse players. As LCpl London’s group left, words were exchanged and the two groups began to fight.

Before long, LCpl London’s friends saw him bent over with his sweatshirt pulled over his head as he was fighting with one of the lacrosse players. At some point during this altercation, another lacrosse player fell backwards, hit his head on a brick walkway, and suffered a skull fracture. The fight was stopped and an ambulance called. Despite medical intervention and several surgeries, the lacrosse player died. In its opinion, the Court refers to this player by the pseudonym “Mr. Hotel.”

LCpl London was charged with murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter for punching Mr. Hotel and causing his death, assault consummated by a battery for punching two other lacrosse players, and wrongful use of cocaine. He was found guilty only of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 65 months confinement, reduction to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge.

On appeal, the defense argued that the guilty finding was factually and legally insufficient. Under the law applicable to this offense, a service court of appeal has the ability to review a conviction and make its own determination as to whether the Government has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Following this review, the Court found that the Government had not met its burden and overturned the conviction.

The Court based its decision on the extensive medical testimony at trial. Two of the doctors who testified stated that they saw no medical evidence that Mr. Hotel had ever been punched. They testified that his fall appeared to be accelerated, either from being struck or pushed or some other mechanism, but could not find evidence that he had been specifically punched. Another doctor testified that bruising on his head could have been from an assault, as opposed to from medical intervention, but he could not conclusively state that Mr. Hotel had been punched.

In addition to the medical testimony, the Court pointed to the witness testimony. No witnesses actually saw LCpl London or anyone else punch Mr. Hotel. One witness heard the sound of a punch shortly before Mr. Hotel fell, but did not see who was punched or who was punching. Although LCpl London was the only member of his group that was in close proximity to Mr. Hotel when he fell, there was no evidence that his fall was the result of LCpl London punching him.

The defense theory at trial was that Mr. Hotel was the one who pulled LCpl London’s sweatshirt up over his head and that when the sweatshirt ripped, he fell back and hit his head. Pictures introduced at trial show that LCpl London’s sweatshirt was unripped earlier in the evening, but ripped after the fight. He had ligature marks around his neck that a doctor testified were likely from the sweatshirt being pulled over his head and strangling him.

Further, the medical evidence showed that Mr. Hotel had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 at the time he was admitted to the hospital and that he had THC in his system. The medical experts testified that these substances would have impaired his reaction time and balance. The Court found that the Government’s evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that LCpl London punched Mr. Hotel and was the cause of his death. They overturned the guilty verdict and the Government cannot retry the case. LCpl London will no longer have a conviction and will be released from the brig.

If you or your loved one is facing a court-martial or wants to appeal a court-martial conviction, you need someone with experience who knows the law. I have the experience you need. Please call Bill Cassara at (706) 445-2943 for aΒ free consultation.

1 thought on “Navy-Marine Corps Court Overturns Manslaughter Conviction”

  1. Wow… Mr Cassara Thanks to continue helping our Heroes, Praying for those in need for help in unfair trials and hopefully my Son gets overturned too β€œin the name of Jesus” πŸ™πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌ
    God Bless You to you and Staff
    Thanks Mr. Cassara
    Jorge Sr.


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