The highest military appeals court in the United States will hear an appeal later this year in the case of a soldier sentenced to death for killing two fellow soldiers and wounding 14 others in a grenade attack in 2003.
Army Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, 42, was convicted in 2005 of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder resulting from an attack on members of the 101st Airborne Division at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait, on March 23, 2003. Akbar tossed three hand grenades into the tents of sleeping soldiers and then fired his weapon at two officers as they exited their tents, killing one.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) in Washington, D.C., will hear oral arguments on Nov. 18. According to the CAAF website, among the issues the five civilian judges will consider is whether Akbar “was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel” at every stage of his general court martial proceeding. During the trial, Akbar’s defense attorneys never contested the facts of the case. They contended, however, that because he and his family had a history of mental illness and other problems, he could not have premeditated the murders.
“When faced with the stress of war and fighting other Muslims, he broke psychologically before committing violence upon his fellow soldiers,” Maj. Jacob Bashore, one of the attorneys representing Akbar during the appeal, wrote in a brief for the upcoming hearing
The appeal attorneys also argue that 14 of the 15 members of the jury during Akbar’s court martial should have been dismissed for cause “based on actual and implied bias.”
All of the issues that will be argued during the upcoming CAAF appeal hearing were previously dismissed by a lower military appeals court. On July 13, 2012, in a unanimous 51-page opinion by a three-judge panel of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, Akbar was denied a petition for a new trial. Both the guilty conviction and the death sentence were affirmed.
Under United States law, all cases in which a military member is sentenced to death must be reviewed by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. If the death sentence is affirmed by that court, the CAAF must review the case.
If Akbar’s death sentence is affirmed by the CAAF, he would still be able to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has discretion under U.S. law to review all military death penalty cases.