The military prosecutor arguing the murder case against a New York soldier accused of killing two officers in Iraq said today that witness testimony about feuds between the men and access to explosives proves the soldier’s guilt.
But the defense attorney for Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez said the government only selected evidence that pointed toward him even though other soldiers had a motive, and that Martinez wasn’t skilled enough to carry out the attack.
“This case has never been investigated,” defense attorney Maj. John Gregory said during closing arguments, wrapping up the six-week court-martial at Fort Bragg.
Martinez, 41, of Schaghticoke, is the first soldier from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be accused of killing a direct superior, a crime known as “fragging” during the Vietnam war.
Martinez could face the death penalty if convicted of premeditated murder in the deaths of Capt. Phillip Esposito of Suffern and 1st Lt. Louis Allen of Milford, Pa. Both men were killed when an anti-personnel mine detonated outside their room at a U.S. military base in 2005.
Witnesses have testified that Martinez and Esposito were at odds because the officer believed Martinez was lax in operating the unit’s supply room.
The prosecutor, Maj. John Benson, asked jurors to recall testimony about Martinez’s frustration and animosity toward Esposito. Benson also noted testimony about Martinez’s ability to get Claymore mines, the type of explosive that killed the officers.
“Those are signposts that will lead you to the truth,” Benson told the 14-member military jury.
Gregory said his client couldn’t have carried out such an attack, as evident by his military proficiency scores. Gregory argued that Martinez was singled out as a suspect because of his mannerisms and the derogatory comments to other soldiers about Esposito.
Gregory said Martinez was innocent and that other soldiers had the opportunity to commit the killings and had reason to do so.
“He’s a person who’s easy to cast suspicion upon,” Gregory said. “Sgt. Martinez wouldn’t commit these crimes.”
Martinez, a New York Army National Guard soldier, chose not to testify during the court-martial.
Prosecutors alleged he planted Claymore anti-personnel mine that detonated June 7, 2005, in a window of the officers’ room at Saddam Hussein’s Water Palace in Tikrit.
Esposito, 30, worked as an information technology manager in Manhattan and was Martinez’s company commander. Allen, 34, was a high school science teacher and the company operations officer. The Espositos had a young daughter, and the Allens had four young sons.
All three men were members of the 42nd Infantry Division.