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3 Army Vets Set Free After 25 Years In Prison For Crime They Say They Didn’t Commit
Three former U.S. Army soldiers convicted of a racially motivated murder they say they didn’t commit have been set free on bail after spending more than 25 years behind bars, The Associated Press reports.
Mark Jason Jones, Kenneth Eric Gardiner, and Dominic Brian Lucci were stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia when Stanley Jackson, a black man, was fatally shot in Savannah on the night of Jan. 31, 1992. The soldiers, who are white, were in Savannah at the time for an impromptu bachelor party for Jones, who was set to marry the next day. They were arrested hours after Jackson’s murder and sentenced to life in prison later that year. All three were in their early 20s.
Kenneth Eric GardinerPhoto courtesy of Chatham County Sheriff's Office
Now in their mid- to late 40s, Jones, Gardiner, and Brian were released from prison on Dec. 20 after a Savannah judge set bail at $30,000 apiece. The AP reports that the men plan to head home to spend the holidays with their families.
One of the men’s lawyers, Peter Camiel, told the AP that the trio shouldn’t have ever been charged — “let alone convicted” — of Jackson’s murder, echoing a chorus of supporters who have long pointed to a lack of evidence and conflicting witness testimonies as proof that Jones, Gardiner, and Brian were victims of a miscarriage of justice. Centurion Ministries, a nonprofit organization that works to free innocent people, took up the case in 2009.
Jackson was gunned down on a street corner in a high-crime neighborhood of Savannah at around 10 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1992. An eyewitness, James White, testified at trial that he saw Gardiner and Jones leaning out the windows of a 1992 Chevrolet Cavalier and shooting at Jackson. Later, however, White admitted that he hadn’t had a clear view of the shooters and was pressured to identify them as the soldiers.
Dominic LucciPhoto courtesy of Chatham County Sheriff's Office
The Georgia Supreme Court — which previously upheld the mens’ convictions — ruled last month that they were entitled to a new trial because prosecutors had improperly withheld evidence that would have helped their defense. The three were convicted in November 1992 of malice murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and sentenced to life in prison plus five years, according to the AP.
The state Supreme Court noted the absence of police records that showed officers had been notified of another racially motivated incident involving “white men with military style haircuts and semi-automatic weapons” that occurred about three hours after Jones, Gardiner, and Brian were arrested. A witness said those armed men had driven through a housing project threatening “to shoot blacks who hung out on street corners.”
Casting further doubt on the original verdict was the timeline of events. The trio spent the evening of Jan. 31, 1992, at a rehearsal dinner in Hinesville for Jones’ wedding and left in a car for Savannah between 9:15 or 9:30pm. It’s a 50-minute drive, which the Georgia Supreme Court determined indicates the men were still en route to Savannah at the time of Jackson’s murder. Additionally, as the AP notes, “no gun, casings or gunshot residue were found in the car.”
Mark JonesPhoto courtesy of Chatham County Sheriff's Office
Another key witness was a female Army officer who testified that Jones had told her earlier in the day of the murder that he was planning to shoot “a black guy” in Savannah that night. She said the conversation took place at Fort Stewart; however, according to Camiel, Jones wasn’t even on base that day because he was on leave for his wedding. The accusing officer’s story also changed several times.
Prosecutors have not yet said if they plan to retry the case. Camiel told the AP in November that the defense is prepared to keep fighting, but that a retrial “would be a terrible decision.”
“These guys have been in custody for so long,” he added. “It’s time to send them home.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs released an alarming report Friday showing that at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide between 2008 and 2017, with little sign that the crisis is abating despite suicide prevention being the VA's top priority.
Although the total population of veterans declined by 18% during that span of years, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide annually, according to the VA's 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he discussed Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son in a call with Ukraine's president.
Trump's statement to reporters about his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came as the Democratic leader of a key congressional panel said the pursuit of Trump's impeachment may be the "only remedy" to the situation.
The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.
The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.
The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.
Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.
Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.
Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.
These CIA officers were the first US boots on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11 — and one was 'Marine Todd'
Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.
The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.
Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."
That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.
Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.