Justice for Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen

Eleven years ago, in the blinding dust of an Iraqi sandstorm, an American soldier placed a wire-activated landmine on the windowsill of Army Captain Phillip Esposito’s office. There, Esposito was playing a game of Risk with First Lieutenant Louis Allen. The soldier, believed by military prosecutors to be Staff Sergeant Alberto Martinez, then detonated the landmine, blasting hundreds of small ball bearings into the room where Esposito and Allen sat. Esposito died almost immediately, this despite medical care that included cracking open his chest and massaging his heart. Allen died a few hours later, conscious at first, but suffering wounds too grievous for any man to endure.

I’ve seen the photos of the crime scene and of the victims. These images lay bare the essence of violence. They lay bare the essence of negated humanity. They lay bare the essence of evil.

But for their deaths, Esposito and Allen would not receive justice. In 2008, an Army court-martial acquitted Staff Sergeant Martinez for his alleged role in the murders, ostensibly one vote short of the two-thirds majority necessary to convict.

Based upon my examination of the evidence in the case, I believe the military jury delivered the wrong verdict and let a guilty man go free. Moreover, I do not believe that the Army has engaged in the soul-searching necessary to properly address the circumstances that led to the murders, primarily, the lack of military discipline that allowed a recalcitrant soldier to issue hundreds of threats and gestures of contempt unchecked. In my view, had the Army acted like an army, Esposito and Allen would be alive today.

In the face of this failure of military justice, Esposito and Allen deserve a larger, moral justice. They deserve to have their story told, in appropriate detail, and with sufficient accuracy and objectivity that the good may learn from it and work to prevent future tragedies.

That is the long and short of it. Esposito and Allen were good men. Eleven years after their deaths, they deserve a justice yet undelivered.