Imagine that you are a police officer brought into court for the murder of a suspect that surrendered and shooting at innocent people. You are found not guilty for any charge except taking pictures with the suspect’s body. You might be surprised if this charge ended up costing someone like the State Attorney his job for keeping the conviction.
A similar incident like this happened on a national scale in the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who managed to be found not guilty of war crimes such as murdering an ISIS prisoner, obstruction of justice and firing on civilians. Like the example above, he was only found guilty of posing with the body of the dead fighter.
The charge resulted in him being demoted to petty officer first class and serving four months confinement.
Then came President Donald Trump to the rescue, using his ability to grant pardons to overturn Gallagher’s demotion.
Following the pardon, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer was asked to resign. He said in his resignation letter, “I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Gallagher was initially charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is a federal law that defines the military justice system.
It is important to know that if troops from our country commit a crime while fighting overseas, they will be held as accountable as they would back home.
Even though demoting Gallagher was a token gesture, it at least showed the system can offer some punishment to those who blatantly break the rules.
Trump, who has used his power of pardoning the convicted quite liberally, undermined what little justice was truly sought in this trial. Gallagher made a mistake and punishment was essential. Even if this just meant a reduction in pay and his pride stung by loss of rank.
No one would like their body passed around for photos like the trophy of a hunter. There should be an effort to try to treat even our worst enemies with the respect we wish them to show us.
While the validity of the use of pardons varies on a case-by-case basis, it should be clear that this time the verdict should have stuck.