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Billy Smith Freed

On November 14 a jury of seven officers found Pvt. Billy Dean Smith innocent on six counts, including two charges of murder and two of attempted murder. In what seemed like a last spiteful blow, the same jury found Billy guilty of assault for spitting at the officer who had arrested him and sentenced him to a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all back pay.

Now that the that is over it seems incredible that such a farce was allowed to be played out for the twenty months that Billy Smith has spent in solitary confinement.

The army's case when viewed in total was at its best a grim comedy of errors and at its worst the blatant and groundless persecution of an innocent man.

The prosecution's own witnesses played a large role in acquitting Billy, admitting on the witness stand to having been intimidated by their superiors into mating false statements designed to incriminate him.

The mainstay of the prosecution's case, a pin they claimed to have matched with a fragmentation grenade used in the bragging incident, was torn to shreds by testimony from L. B. Miller, a former police expert in the field and an employee of the Institute of Forensic Sciences. He testified, ''I can take two pins pulled apart at random from two parts of the world and make a better match than you have here. In fact I have,'' His testimony was corroborated by a senior research engineer from the Apollo Space programs who specializes in testing metal wear and damage.

One witness for the army turned out to have been undesirably discharged from the military three times under different names, had passed some $20,000 worth of bad checks and was awaiting trial for stabbing someone in the back.

Alter the prosecution had rested its case it seemed almost redundant for defense witnesses to take the stand. But when they did, Henry McClay finished off the last remnant of the army's ''case'' when he testified ''I was in a bunker smoking dope with Billy Smith when we heard the explosion.''

About Face! The U.S. Servicemen's Fund Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 7


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