- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Three Republican congressmen have taken up the cause of Clint Lorance, a jailed former Army lieutenant fighting to overturn his murder conviction by a U.S. military court for killing two Afghan men in a war zone.

The lawmakers sent a letter Tuesday to Secretary of the Army John McHugh alerting him that they were closely following the appeals process and pressing court officers to review new evidence in Lorance’s case, which hinges on whether he violated the rules of engagement for the war zone.

“It is our belief, based on information brought to our attention, that Lorance’s case requires further review,” wrote the lawmakers, led by California Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Marine combat veteran.

The new evidence purportedly shows that the two Afghan men who were shot on Lorance’s orders could have been involved in planting improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, according to the letter.

The letter also was signed by Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon and Montana Rep. Ryan K. Zinke, the first former Navy Seal to serve in Congress.

They demanded assurances that they could review the evidence if Lorance does not win the appeal.

“Too often cases involving rules of engagement present difficulty. The warfighter doesn’t always have the benefit of time given [that] lives are always at risk in a war zone. While the rules of engagement are in place for a reason and serve a critical purpose, any case that projects an alleged violation of the rules of engagement deserves a high level of attention and scrutiny.”

Lorance, 30, who is currently serving a 19-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, was convicted in 2013 of two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

A year earlier, he was leading a patrol in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan when they were approached by three men on a motorcycle. He ordered his troops to shoot. Machine gun fire killed two of the Afghan nationals. The third man ran away.

Lorance’s supporters argue that he was doing his job and trying to keep his men safe. His opponents, including fellow soldiers who testified against him at the court martial, say he was out for blood and needlessly exceeded the rules of engagement.

In the letter, the three congressman stressed that they respected the military legal process.

“We are not taking the position that the military justice system has failed Lorance, especially with the understanding that his case is still under appeal,” they wrote, adding that “it is absolutely critical that the integrity of the military justice system is preserved and the process for adjudication is effective and reliable.”

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