Army prosecutor's credibility questioned in call for Fort Bragg soldier's freedom

FORT BRAGG (WTVD) -- Newly filed papers are calling a former Army prosecutor's credibility into question, as the attorney for a soldier convicted of murder continues a fight for clemency.

John N. Maher, a Chicago-based attorney for 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, filed the papers earlier this month.

Lorance was sentenced to 20 years in the Fort Leavenworth prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three men riding motorcycles through an Afghanistan war zone. It happened during the summer of 2012. Two men died, and the prosecutors concluded they were innocent civilians. The Army also said Lorance had put his soldiers in danger by issuing the orders.

Lorance was sentenced on Fort Bragg during the summer of 2013, following a court martial in which platoon members testified there was no reason to shoot the unarmed men. Lorance has always maintained that he did what he believed was right, in order to protect his troops.

Now Maher says there is key evidence that was excluded from the trial, tying the slain men and the survivor to terrorist networks.

Maher also alleges a former lead prosecutor, Maj. Erik Burris, was too distracted to supervise the case properly because he was distracted by other duties, including the Army's pressure to prosecute certain cases. Maher also said the major's personal problems, to include his own charges tied to an alleged assault against his wife and kids, served as an additional distraction.

Burris, who served as 82nd's Chief of Justice when Lorance's case was processed, testified in an unrelated pre-trial hearing last summer. He said his office was pressured to prosecute cases, even when the evidence was what Maher described in the filings as "iffy."

"I know enough about what's going on. If I wanted to, I could embarrass the 82nd," Burris said in court.

Burris was talking about the Army's stance in prosecuting sex assault cases, but Lorance's team suggests it all factored into an unfair trial, and is proof of "less than accepted standards of prosecutorial conduct."

In a final statement labeled "Legacy" in the filing, Maher and his partner John D. Carr outline what they believe the Army should be able to say if they grant Lorance clemency.

"This case can be an Army success story," said Maher in the filing. "The Army is one of the most trusted institutions in our country. When confronted with these errors, omissions, and new evidence, the Army applied its important core values, accepted responsibility and accountability, and exercised grace, nobility, and humility in granting clemency to allow the 82nd, the Army, the Nation, and Clint to turn the corner and put Afghanistan behind us."

Maj. Gen. Richard Clarke, who took over the 82nd Airborne Division command back in October, is charged with deciding whether to reduce Lorance's charges or sentence.

Calls and emails to Maher and Lorance's family were not returned Friday.

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