48 hours in the USDB

Went to visit Russ this past weekend and he told me I simply had to check out the latest episode of “48 Hours.” I’ve never watched the show, but Russ said he’d heard it was about someone in the USDB and it was causing quite the furor since it aired (the inmates apparently all watched it). Turns out, the episode was about SGT Brent Burke who is serving time for the murders of his (soon-t0-be-Ex) wife and mother-in-law.

Here’s the full-length vid from CBS’s website: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50141188n

Image

Court drawing of SGT Burke in Court Martial
Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-18559_162-10015782-7.html

After watching, I was left wanting. I wasn’t completely convinced Burke had been wronged. The civilian courts declared four mistrials, they didn’t declare him innocent. That sounds like something procedural kept going wrong and I’m not going to hang my hat on a rule not followed to the letter.

I recently read Errol Morris’ A Wilderness of Error about the trials of Jeffrey MacDonald (an absolutely stunning book – I highly recommend). Upon finishing, I was dumbfounded and convinced of his MacDonald’s innocence. I cringed most of the way through the book as Morris detailed time and time again how lawyers, judges, and the court system failed MacDonald. There were times when I felt like I was reading a broken record – the same terrible mistakes kept happening over and over.

I didn’t have the same feeling after watching the 48 Hours segment – indeed, I was reminded that a similar 60 minutes segment that aired in 1983 about Jeffrey MacDonald got his case all wrong. So I checked out 48 Hours’ Facebook page to see what people were saying about the segment.

Well, according to a few commenters on the Facebook page (some of which linked to actual court documents, which I liked), CBS didn’t tell the whole story. In fact, it seems they may have left out some pretty key details. (Did Burke really get sent home from Afg. early because he threatened to kill his LT??) I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to tell a story that spans nearly six years in 42 minutes, so obviously some heavy editing needed to be done.

Still, it’s an interesting story and I urge people to watch if only to get a feel for the nature of military courts.

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