Mother Fights for Soldier Son's Innocence

Wednesday, May 27th 2009, 12:42 pm
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, NEWS 9

EDMOND, Oklahoma -- An Edmond mother is fighting to get a new trial for her son. First Lieutenant Michael Behenna was convicted of murder by a military court for killing an Iraqi detainee.

Behenna's mother, Vicki Behenna said prosecutors withheld key evidence in the trial and is now asking the state's congressional delegation to investigate her son's case.

She said testimony from a prosecution witness could have actually helped her son's defense.

"What I want to see happens is that this soldier and every soldier gets a fair trial," Vicki Behenna said.

Vicki Behenna has become a crusader for her son former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna. Michael was convicted of killing an Iraqi detainee in May of 2008.

Michael Behenna was interrogating the detainee, Ali Mansur, after he had been released. Michael Behenna said the detainee was reaching for his weapon and Michael fired to protect himself.

"If Michael had to shoot Ali Mansur to defend then that's what I wanted him to do," Vicki Behenna said.

As a federal prosecutor herself, Michael Behenna's mother said an expert witness hired by the prosecution could have provided testimony that showed the detainee was reaching for her son's weapon when he was shot.

The prosecution had an e-mail detailing the event, but the prosecution never called the witness to testify and the defense didn't learn about the information until after the trial.

"For the government to have that evidence from their own expert and for them not to provide that to the defense counsel so that they could use that and call the government's expert as their own witness was a major malfunction of the trial," Vicki Behenna said.

Then at a hearing after the trial, a judge decided not to order a new trial saying the witness testimony would not have made a difference.

"I think it is disingenuous for a judge to try to determine whether or not that evidence would have made a difference in a jury's verdict," Michael Behenna's mother said.

Vicki Behenna has written Oklahoma's congressional delegation asking they look into the case.

"To make sure military prosecutors are properly trained on their constitutional obligations," Vicki Behenna said. "Secondly, to see if we can get a new trial for Michael.

In the meantime, she's started her own website to help with her son's defense.

"I don't know if you've ever had anybody in the military or anybody who's served in a combat zone," Vicki Behenna said. "What you just hope and pray for, is that they just come home."

Michael Behenna was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Another soldier, Staff Sergeant Hal Warner of Braggs, was sentenced to 17 months for his role in the murder.

To hear Vicki Behenna's entire interview and learn about her fight to help her son.