The first day of pre-trial hearings for Bradley Manning also spawned the first major controversy, with charges of bias against the hearing’s “investigating officer” over both his current role in the Justice Department and his handling of witness requests.
Lt. Col Paul Almanza, a former military judge and current Justice Dept. employee, rejected the calls to recuse himself over a potential conflict of interest, insisting he would remain in his position. The prosecution, unsurprisingly since he was accused of bias in their favor, praised his decision.
Manning’s lawyer, David E. Coombs, argued that Almanza’s treating of witness requests showed a pattern of bias against the defense. The prosecution requested 20 witnesses, all of which were granted. The defense was allowed only two of the 38 witnesses they sought, apart from those which were already on the prosecution’s list.
Which was actually better than what the prosecution wanted, as they had argued that the defense should not be allowed to call any of their witnesses except for the ones that were on the prosecution’s own list.
Almanza’s role in the Justice Department is also a potential issue, as they have a separate series of investigations into the WikiLeaks case as well and have a vested interest in the case returning a guilty verdict, with an eye toward bargaining down Manning’s prison time for testimony against Julian Assange.
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