Full jury is warranted
in Navy capital case


Navy prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty in the case of a Pearl Harbor sailor accused of two murders.

THE U.S. Justice Department has avoided seeking the death penalty in federal cases tried in Hawaii and the other 11 states where capital punishment is banned in state courts. The more autonomous military may feel less compelled to adhere to local ways, and has chosen to seek the death penalty for Navy Petty Officer David DeArmond, a Pearl Harbor sailor charged with the murder last June of his wife and her mother. The least that the Navy should provide in the DeArmond case is a jury of 12.

The government's execution of any person is barbaric, banned in all industrialized countries except the United States. In U.S. military court, the value of a human life is even less than in civilian courts. A unanimous verdict by a jury of five is all that is required in capital courts-martial, while civilians on trial in capital cases in federal court and in state courts where it is allowed are afforded a jury of 12. The Uniform Code of Military Justice does allow a 12-person jury, and one should be appointed in the DeArmond case.

No member of the military has been sentenced to death in a Hawaii court-martial since 1947 at Schofield Barracks. In 1996, then-City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro put his own advocacy of capital punishment above local sentiment in transferring the case of the murder of a Marine to the military because of its "ultimate penalty for the ultimate crime." Instead, the military prudently accepted plea agreements with four Marines and sentenced them to prison terms.

The Navy and Marine Corps have tried about 40 capital cases since 1984, when President Reagan reinstated the death penalty in the military. Navy-Marine juries have returned only seven death verdicts, four of which were commuted or overturned on appeal. Six of the nine death sentences resulting from 29 capital cases in the Army were reversed on appeal. Fort Leavenworth's death row now houses three Marines and four soldiers -- no sailors. No member of the armed services has been executed since 1961.

The National Institute of Military Justice, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, recommended two years ago that courts-martial require at least 12 persons on a jury in cases where the death sentence was a possibility. A House committee also inserted such a requirement in a military authorization bill, but it was not enacted. Such legislation is warranted.

The lawyer for one of the seven military death row inmates, Kenneth Parker, a Marine charged with killing two other Marines, asked for a 12-member jury, and the base commander agreed. However, the military judge denied the request, and Parker was tried and sentenced to death by an eight-member panel -- two-thirds of what Americans regard as true justice.


Talks with N. Korea
may end standoff


The Bush administration will allow informal talks between North Korean envoys and former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson.

SEEMING at first to be intransigent against entering talks with North Korea because of reactivation of its nuclear facilities, the Bush administration has taken a useful turn toward diplomacy. The White House now says it is open to holding new talks with North Korea and has given permission for Pyongyang's United Nations envoy to travel to New Mexico to meet with Gov. Bill Richardson, the U.N. ambassador during the Clinton administration.

The movements come only two weeks after North Korea ordered the expulsion of U.N. nuclear inspectors and warned of an "uncontrollable disaster" if the United States continued refusing to talk. The U.S. position was that talks could come only after the Koreans took steps to halt nuclear activity, a goal that should not have been required to precede talks. The United States changed its position this week, saying it was open to a new talks, but only on how North Korea planned to return to compliance with its 1994 agreement to freeze nuclear activity.

Though Richardson cannot speak for the administration, the informal dialogue could lead to more constructive negotiations. Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer says the administration is sticking to its line "that we are ready to talk and that we will not negotiate."

An agreement to resume providing food and fuel aid to the impoverished country at previous levels would be a humanitarian goal, but only if North Korea agrees first to put its nuclear facilities back in mothballs and invite U.N. inspectors back to assure compliance. Any further concessions by the United States would be a reward for blackmail.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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