Court martial set for Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice Archive/2009/February/090214-02.html

U.S. Army Special Forces Command Public Affairs Office

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, February 12, 2009) — The court martial trial in the case of the United States v. Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell will begin at 9 a.m., Feb. 19, here.

The charges stem from an incident near Hyderabad, Afghanistan, occurring on or about March 5, 2008. The allegations include murder and mutilating a dead body. Newell is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at court-martial.

He is currently assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) Fort Bragg, N.C.
Newell was recommended for a general court martial following an article 32 investigation directed by the Commander, 3rd SFG(A).
The court martial will be held at Fort Bragg and will be open to the public.

Editor’s Notes:
If your news organization is interested in covering the trial, contact the Special Forces Command Public Affairs Office at (910) 432-6005 / 4587 no later than 4 p.m., Tuesday Feb. 18.

It is imperative that you let us know how many media personnel will be attending and if you are bringing a live truck. Live trucks will remain in their designated area for the duration of your coverage of the hearing.
Upon confirmation you should meet at Stryker Golf Course at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, to receive a ground rules briefing. Media who are not driving live trucks will be transported via government vehicle. No privately owned or company vehicles will be allowed on post, except for satellite trucks.
A gate run will be conducted 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. to swap out news crews.

If you decide to drive your satellite truck off post during this run, you will NOT be allowed to bring it back onto post. Public Affairs will provide transportation to swap news crews only.
A security sweep of equipment will take place at the hearing site. Media will be credentialed at the site.

You must have a photo ID from your news organization and another picture ID. The room where the investigative hearing will be held has limited seating capacity. The public, including the media, will be allowed in the hearing on a first come, first serve basis. No recording devices will be allowed in the room.

All media will be required to sign and adhere to strict ground rules especially in relation to the reporting of classified information. Once media RSVP that they are indeed coming, the ground rules will be provided for their review and signature. No media will be allowed in the hearing room without first agreeing to and signing the ground rules.

Green Beret Afghan death court-martial continues

Feb 20, 2009 5:17 AM (2 hrs 31 mins ago) AP

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - A defense lawyer says a Special Forces sergeant from Michigan accused of killing an Afghan civilian and severing the man's ear doesn't dispute the killing and will testify in the defense portion of the court-martial.

Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell of Tecumseh, Mich., is charged with murder and mutilating a body in the March 5 incident. Newell's trial at Fort Bragg began Thursday before a 10-man military jury. Prosecution testimony covered three witnesses on the opening day and will continue Friday.

Opening statements balanced a defense lawyer saying Newell doesn't deny killing the man because he acted in self-defense against a prosecutor who wore latex gloves to show jurors a small, brownish ear.

Newell faces a life sentence if convicted of murder.
Second Day

US soldier argues self defense in court-martial over Afghan civilian killing

Submitted by WW4 Report on Sat, 02/21/2009 - 01:56.
A US Army Special Forces soldier facing court-martial proceedings over the killing of an Afghan civilian in March 2008 has admitted to killing the man but argued during opening statements Feb. 19 that the act was committed in self defense. Master Sgt. Robert Newell of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) was arraigned and charged with killing the unidentified Afghan and mutilating the corpse by cutting off an ear. Military prosecutors allege that the killing was premeditated, and that the civilian posed no threat to Newell.

An Afghan who served as a translator to Newell's Special Forces team testified that the victim had his hands in his pockets while being questioned and subsequently shot by Newell, and that the victim's hands remained in his pockets after the killing. According to defense lawyers, Newell believed the unidentified Afghan to be a Taliban insurgent who posed a threat to him. Newell is being charged with murder and related offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

In 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released documents describing alleged crimes committed by US soldiers against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, but showing that troops believed they were following the law in most instances. The materials were made available in conjunction with a lawsuit the ACLU filed to compel the US military to release all documents relating to the deaths of civilians caused by US troops since January 2005. In 2006, court-martial proceedings against a group of US soldiers implicated in the abuse of detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan ended with only one conviction. Three other soldiers pleaded guilty to abusing prisoners at Bagram, two others pleaded guilty at the court-martial and five were acquitted. The Army dropped the charges against three others. (Jurist, Feb. 20) Archive/2009/February/090220-01.html
The solo testimony by Sgt. 1st Class Ricky Derring was for his team leader, Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell, 38, from Tecumseh, Mi., about 50 miles west-southwest of Detroit. Newell, who has served in the military for two decades, is now in court-martial proceedings on a murder charge in the March 4, 2008 killing of an Afghan civilian.
During the prosecution’s examination, Derring said that Newell had detained and questioned the man after spotting civilians who were acting suspiciously near their convoy mission.

Derring said Newell shot the man in the chest after driving into a remote area and then left the body in the desert. They went back to the body later, and Derring said that Newell returned to their vehicle with a human ear.

Derring later testified that Newell returned to the spot where he left the man’s body and “made a stabbing motion and I could see his arms cutting.” Newell then walked back to the team’s vehicle with the man’s ear in his hand, Derring said.

Defense attorney Todd Conormon argued that there wasn’t enough evidence, and that other members of the Special Forces Team had created personal conflicts between themselves and Newell. Conormon also questioned Derring’s testimony, arguing that he wasn’t able to see the suspect and deceased in full view at the time of the shooting.
Court will resume Friday, Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. for continuing arguments and deliberation.

I am thinking that either SFC Derring has it in for his team sgt or his team sgt is one twisted dude who should have been more careful on who is watching him. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. I just hope MSG Newell gets acquitted and gets to retire and go home to his family. No soldier in a combat zone should be charged with murder!
Court-martialed Green Beret describes killing

A staff report

The Fort Bragg Green Beret accused of murdering an unarmed Afghan and cutting off the man's ear said his superior officer had jokingly asked him if he’d gotten the man’s ear.

Under cross-examination this afternoon during the third day of his court martial, Master Sgt. Joseph Newell said that before he went back to the Afghan’s body the first time, Capt. James Walters jokingly said, “Hey, did you get the ear?”

Newell said the comment, followed by laughter, made him “perturbed.”

When he returned with the unidentified man's ear, Walters said, “Okay, that's better,” according to Newell.

Newell is accused of murdering the man and then desecrating his body during combat operations near Hyderabad, Afghanistan in March 2008. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

The defense lawyers have argued that Newell shot the man out of self defense and that the man was an insurgent, possibly a member of the Taliban.

In testimony this morning, Newell said that before he pulled the trigger, he and the man had a “Tombstone” moment.

Newell said that he shot the unidentified man because, after telling the man he would be taken into custody, the man clenched his fists and made a sudden move forward.

“It was the longest second of my life and the shortest second of my life,” Newell testified during the third day of his court-martial on Monday.

“This was not an accidental discharge, I meant to shoot him,” Newell told jurors.

He testified that after he shot him the first time, he watched the unidentified man's eyes roll into the back of his head and disappear. Then, he said, he shot the man again.

“The second shot wasn't needed, but that's what you do,” Newell said.

He also said that after the shooting, he was reassured that he did the right thing by both his superior officer and Sgt. 1st Class Ricky Derring. Both men previously testified and did not include the exchanges in their accounts of the day.

Newell said that when he approached his superior officer, Capt. Jason Walters jokingly asked, “Did you kill anybody yet?”

When Newell responded “yes,” the joking stopped, Newell testified.

He said Walters told him to return to the body to make sure the man was dead and was told to return a third time to hide the body.

On the first return to the body, Newell testified that he checked the man's pulse and, finding none, cut off the man's ear.

He said he had no explanation for cutting off the ear other than he didn't want people to think he was afraid.

Newell testified that he had many emotions running through his body after the shooting. Others told him he appeared shaken immediately afterwards and he said he later became angry.

“I didn't decide to shoot him,” Newell testified. “He decided to have me shoot him.”

On the second return, he said Derring helped him move the body into his vehicle, something Derring denied while on the stand.

Newell said he wanted the body to be hidden so that enemy forces wouldn't “throw the kitchen sink at us.”

If there had been an attack on the way back to the base, Newell said he would have felt responsible.

The unidentified Afghan was detained after Newell and other soldiers made a vehicle stop while providing security for a convoy. Several of the convoy's trucks were stuck in sand and while they were being dug out, Newell testified that radio chatter indicated that the soldiers were being watched.

Newell said he was certain the chatter was coming from the truck the man was riding in before being detained.
This man's career is over. 20 years. Maybe he fucked up, I dunno. IMO, it's no crime to take an ear in war, although it is a bit perverse and unecessary. There's precedent.

But this dude is gonna get fried. It's a big order to try to get lawyers, judges and civilians to try and understand the way combat desensitizes one to death, especially the enemy dead...and there are a number of questions about this story that raise doubt about it.
I agree that he is not in the best position telling the jury that he cut hadji’s ear off b/c the TL asked if he had… It almost sounds like he pissed some of his guys off and then he gave them a reason to get back at him? I don’t know, I have never served with a SF unit other then pulling perimeter for a few raids. But I have heard stories of dudes getting kicked off a ODA for being unprofessional. Not sure if there is any truth to that, or if cutting an ear off we be considered unprofessional?
He screwed up by cutting the ear off, and will be found guilty on a lesser charge. He'll get off on the murder charge. Sounds like the Team did not like their Team Sgt. Too bad it comes down to something like this.
Lead Consultant for Joe

Please let it be known the following as a consultant for MSgt. Joe Newell. I have been paid a total of $1 (one dollar) for my assistance in this case. I never knew of or met Joe prior to this case.

You will be able to read a little bit about me from my bio on my company's website. I am trained to know when people lie and when people tell the truth. I would not be willing to put my personal name and company's reputation on the line if I had ANY questions regarding the truthfulness and testimony of MSgt Newell.

He is unquestionably one of the most professional, honest and forthcoming soldiers I have been privileged to to know throughout my career as both a veteran and consult to the US military.

I am confident the military panel will assess the facts surrounding MSgt. Joe Newell and will come to the very conclusion I have. MSgt. Newell has a 20 year proven and undisputed professional standing within the US Military. A soldier who was forced to make a split second decision in a combat environment that may or may not end his career. Bottom line is there is no reason or fact supporting an unlawful or unjustifiable killing of an unknown suspected enemy combatant.

I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve this warrior.


Chris Ghannam
President, Sark Securities Inc.
Well good deal, I hope things go good for MSG Newell and he is returned to duty asap!!!

Do your best and know that MSG Newell will be in my thoughts and prayers! ;)
He screwed up by cutting the ear off, and will be found guilty on a lesser charge. He'll get off on the murder charge. Sounds like the Team did not like their Team Sgt. Too bad it comes down to something like this.

That's what I'm thinking too. Regardless of it being done in the past or not, you don't just lop off a body part like that.
If he did chop the ear off a corpse, he's toast. In today's military, there's no room for body mutilation. He should've known that. If this is all true, it's not something that happened in the heat of battle, it was a calculated decision. You'd expect better from someone of his age, rank, & MOS.

I wish him the best & hope this isn't true.
I will refrain from passing any judgements on MSG Newell or SFC Derring as that's what a jury is for.

I will say that killing folks is only one part of COIN, and generally the smallest part. Corpse mutilation could serve a purpose, but not ours, not as I see it. As a very good and trusted friend told me once, in our line of work, every action is deliberate. I completely agree. SF is low imprint with a large ripple effect. To what end would severing an ear prove to be useful? Intimidation of the enemy? Is this a proven TTP? Or is it a trophy? What are the 2nd and 3rd effects? Shooting is instinctive. Mutilation is not.

We are fighting a war on two fronts. I'm not speaking of different theaters. I'm speaking of the war of public perception and the war on the ground. Regardless of how this turns out, we have just lost a major battle in the former. We can't afford this.
I've taken a bit more time to think about it and have edited my previous response.
Court martial continues

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Feb. 24, 2009) - Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell’s court-martial hearing continued the morning of Feb. 23 as he took the stand to testify in his defense.
Newell, of 2nd Battalion, 3rd SFG(A), is charged with first-degree murder of an Afghan man and mutilation of the body.
Defense attorney Maj. Lance Daniels began by questioning Newell about his 20-year career in the Army. With more than 16 deployments, over 15 years as a Special Forces Soldier and numerous leadership positions, the defendant was portrayed by the defense as a trustworthy, dedicated and focused Soldier.
The defense then turned its questions toward the Special Forces unit that Newell was in charge of at the time of the incident. Newell claimed the unit was suffering from some leadership issues as well as a major schism in communication between senior and junior members.
Newell was then questioned about his unit’s missions in Afghanistan. He said the team conducted over 40 missions, over half of which resulted in contact with enemy forces. The missions were varied in intensity and duration; some lasting a mere six hours while others could last as long as 10 days.
When asked about combat details of the unit, Newell said it was responsible for the deaths of nearly 200 enemy combatants, was involved with 10 direct enemy engagements and encountered numerous mortar and improvised explosive device attacks.
The defense then asked more directly about the event in question.
Newell explained that on March 5, 2008, his team was on a convoy mission when several trucks in the convoy became stuck in the road. After creating a perimeter around the stuck vehicles, Newell noticed a truck some distance away driving around in a small circle.
The peculiar pattern the truck was moving in led Newell to believe that its driver and passengers could be performing surveillance on the temporarily immobilized Soldiers. After picking up a radio signal broadcasting the location of the convoy, Newell said he was convinced the convoy was being watched.

Newell said the truck stopped and 10 people came out of it, acting strangely and standing close together so that he couldn’t see what they were doing. As a precaution, he ordered warning shots fired in their vicinity to encourage them to leave the area.
On the same frequency he heard the voice giving away the convoy’s position, he heard someone cry, “They’re shooting at us.”
Newell said that his and another vehicle went to track down the truck to search possible insurgents for any weapons or communication equipment.
When the truck was finally stopped, Newell said that all the passengers exited and were searched by Afghan National Army soldiers. The only one that was taken into custody was the man in the passenger seat, whose position in the car indicated him as the group’s leader. The others were not deemed a threat and were allowed to leave.
Newell said there was no room for the detainee in either of the vehicles, so he was made to stand on the back of the vehicle and hold onto two chest-high handles.
Some time on the way back to the main convoy, Newell said he remembered that he had failed to search their detainee. Newell stopped the vehicle and went around to the rear with his Afghan interpreter to search and question the detainee.
The defense asked what happened during the investigation. Newell said that the man moved his right arm and right thigh toward him in a threatening manner. Newell said that he shot the man twice in the chest, killing him.
The defense showed a diagram, illustrating the defendant’s position in relation to his vehicle and the victim.
When asked what he did after killing the man, Newell said he moved to rejoin the main convoy and head back to his Fire-base Robinson, where Newell’s team was based. Newell said he left the body.
Newell said he returned twice to the site of the shooting. He returned the first time to take the ear from the corpse and again to move the body from where it had been left.
When asked why he took the ear, he claimed that it was at the suggestion of his commander, Capt. Jason Walters. The defense then asked why he returned again. Newell said that Walters also suggested that the body be removed to prevent retaliation from insurgent forces.
The prosecution began with asking Newell about several quotes that others attributed to him around the time of the incident. Newell denied most of them, but did concede to others.
The prosecution then questioned Newell’s “educated guesses” about the truck he stopped and searched, asserting that he may have incorrectly identified the vehicle he pursued. Newell did admit that there was a short time when he could not see the vehicle and could have pulled over a different vehicle than the one he saw driving in circles.
Newell’s testimony differed from the earlier testimonies of Soldiers who were present at the incident. The Afghan interpreter, who for his safety is known only as “Mark,” claimed that the Afghan man was shot with his hands still in his pockets and that the man never moved toward Newell.
After the prosecution, the defense called in three character witnesses: Sgt. 1st Class Mike Helton, Maj. Jonathan White, and Col. Sean Mulholland, of 3rd Special Forces Group. They were asked about Newell’s moral character and each spoke positively of him.
Two subject-matter experts spoke with the judge at the end of the proceedings: a forensic psychologist and a use-of-force expert. Whether or not they will be allowed to testify before the jury at the Feb. 24 session was not disclosed during the day’s proceedings Archive/2009/February/090224-04.html
I wonder why the persecution had the interpreter testify? No way in hell I'd believe an Afghani. Makes it easier for the defense to cast doubt on the events.
Acquital on murder, guilty on the mutilation charge.
Some time in jail, then he retires.
It would be interesting to see the military background of the team, 18X's vs other initial MOS's.
I wonder why the persecution had the interpreter testify? No way in hell I'd believe an Afghani. Makes it easier for the defense to cast doubt on the events.
Acquital on murder, guilty on the mutilation charge.
Some time in jail, then he retires.
It would be interesting to see the military background of the team, 18X's vs other initial MOS's.

I think your probably right on the final outcome of this. Archive/2009/February/090225-05.html

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, Feb. 25, 2009) - On the final day of testimony in the court martial of a Fort Bragg Soldier, the defense team used the testimony of an expert witness Tuesday afternoon to make the case the Soldier’s highly trained reactions and a sense of fear set the conditions for his killing and mutilation of an Afghan man.

Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell, a Special Forces Soldier with 3rd Special Forces Group, is charged with first-degree murder and mutilating the body of an Afghan man.

The defense brought to the stand Claudia R. Coleman, a clinical psychologist living and practicing in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was asked how many years of experience she had and what kind of work she has done during her career. She answered that she had 27 years of experience and explained her history in psychological evaluations, therapy and private practice.

Coleman said she had performed close to 1,000 psychological examinations. Of those examinations, several hundred of them were required because the subjects were involved with murder.

When asked if she had ever worked with military servicemembers or veterans, she answered yes.

Coleman explained that using the defendant’s testimony, investigation reports and over four hours of one-on-one examination of the defendant, she was able to make an assessment of Newell’s mental state before, during and after the time of the incident.

The defense asked if she ever consulted with Maj. Christopher Lange, the forensic psychiatrist who first assessed him at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2008. She said she did not consult with him and that her assessment of Newell’s mental state before the incident was consistent with Lange’s.

Coleman said she did not run tests on Newell because she said there was no reason to, considering Newell’s lack of a history with mental illness. She also said that he did not display any signs of having an underlying mental disability.

The defense asked Coleman what her assessment of Newell’s state of mind was at the time of the shooting. Coleman said Newell’s actions and description of his own feelings about the shooting were consistent with someone who was in genuine fear for his life.

Coleman went on to explain the brain’s reaction to fear with threat stimuli. In essence, she said, the reflexive parts of the brain, the ones which govern immediate, subconscious response, act faster than the more cognitive parts of the brain. This meant that a person reacting to fear often acts before thinking about how they will react.

Coleman later said Newell’s training might also affect how he reflexively reacts.

“Higher processes of the brain have little to do with automatic threat response,” Coleman said. “Thinking comes later.”

The defense asked if Newell’s description of the incident matched up with Coleman’s explanation of fear response. Coleman said it did.

When asked if she looked for signs of malingering in her assessments, Coleman said that she did. Coleman explained she had witnessed malingering in other cases and can identify it using body language, consistency of a person’s presentation and their mental history. Coleman said she could detect no evidence of malingering in Newell.

The defense then asked if Newell’s intent to kill the victim when he was forced to open fire proved inconsistent with a fear response. Coleman said it was not inconsistent. She explained that Newell could have reactively killed the victim, and as the higher thought processes of the brain caught up with the immediate reaction of the body, come to believe it was intentional after the fact.

The defense asked if Newell’s feeling of regret at the incident was inconsistent with a fear response, Coleman answered that it was not. She said regret is a normal response that comes after the initial response. Coleman also explained how fear responses are possible in even the most courageous of individuals.

To explain Newell’s removal of the victim’s ear, Coleman said Newell’s testimony regarding his feelings after the shooting indicated an extended stress response. She said Newell’s mental state was neither sadistic nor psychotic and that as a result of temporary chemical changes from the fear response, could easily have had his judgment altered for a period of time.

The prosecution then began cross-examination. They first asked how much time she had spent with Newell and when she formed her first professional opinion. She answered that she spent a total of four hours evaluating Newell and that she formed her opinion December of 2008.

The prosecution asked if she spoke with any other witnesses at the time of her evaluation and she answered that she did not. Coleman was asked if she ever wrote a formal report and she answered that she did not.

When asked if fear response was a diagnosable disorder, Coleman said it wasn’t. The prosecution asked if she conducted any formal tests and she said she didn’t.

Coleman said that Newell had no condition that would have prevented him from premeditating murder. She also said Newell had no condition that would have prevented him from forming intent to take the ear.

Coleman was released and Master Sgt. Frankie McRae, 3rd Bn., 3rd Special Forces Group, and Master Sgt. Sean Berk,of United States Army Special Operations Command’s Crisis Action Team, testified in Newell’s defense. They both said that Newell was a man of trustworthiness, integrity and self-sacrifice.

The prosecution cross-examined, asking if McRae and Berk were good friends with Newell. They both said they were close friends with Newell. The prosecution asked them if they wanted to save Newell from anything bad happening to him and they each answered yes. They were then asked if they were present with Newell on the day of the murder and they said they weren’t.

The last to testify was Lange, the forensic psychiatrist who evaluated Newell at Walter Reed. The testimony was held over the phone.

The defense asked Lange what materials he reviewed regarding Newell’s case. Lange said he reviewed Newell’s Article 32, investigation reports, sworn statements, evidence and medical records.

Lange was in charge of Newell’s sanity board, a board of physicians tasked to determine Newell’s competence and assess his psychiatric diagnosis during and after the shooting.

Lange said Newell was very open in describing what happened during the incident. Lange could find no evidence of malingering, as Newell’s explanation of the shooting itself revealed no symptoms of a psychological disorder.

Lange said Newell described the victim’s alleged advance toward him as a surprise and explained the body can respond automatically in its defense.

Considering Newell’s explanation of what happened after the shooting, Lange diagnosed Newell with and adjustment disorder, a disorder he said doesn’t often last longer than a day.

The prosecution asked Lange if adjustment disorders are consistent with both reflexive-type killings and premeditated murder. Lange said yes.

Lange said that the disorder would not have affected knowledge of wrongdoing.

The judge released the jury at 1 p.m. and spoke with the defense and prosecution regarding special instructions for the jury.
The session ended at 3:30 p.m. Closing statements and deliberation will begin Feb. 25 at 9 a.m.