Criminal Law

Trump Pardons for War Criminals Undermines Military Law

The president pardoned Lieutenant Lorance and two other servicemen accused or convicted of war crimes. But many in the military, especially in military legal circles, are not celebrating. Mr. Trump’s reprieves, issued against the advice of top defense officials, were seen as a sign of disregard not only for the decisions of military juries, but for the judicial process itself.

“It’s just institutionally harmful,” said Rachel VanLandingham, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and former judge advocate who now teaches law at Southwestern Law School. “This isn’t about these three individuals, it’s about the whole military justice system and whether that system itself is something of value to the operations of the military.”

  • Lieutenant Lorance was convicted at trial in 2013 for ordering the shooting of a group of civilians in Afghanistan, an order he then tried to cover up. He was given a full pardon.
  • Chief Gallagher was charged with the murder of a captive in Iraq but was acquitted this summer of all charges except for the minor charge of posing for a photo with a corpse.
  • Major Golsteyn was awaiting trial on charges that he murdered an unarmed Afghan in 2010.

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