The right to due process of law is a right guaranteed to Americans in the Constitution, and one that helps keeps the government accountable. The importance of this right was demonstrated recently in Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s trial, where he was ultimately acquitted of his first-degree murder and attempted murder charges.
What exactly is the nature of Gallagher’s case? The Navy SEAL was accused of stabbing a teenaged ISIS prisoner, proceeding to gloat about the kill to his fellow SEALs, and then taking a picture with the dead body. In addition, he was accused of obstruction of justice along with shooting at civilians without military permission.
Then, in an embellished narrative by the New York Times that prompted national attention, his case was broadly distorted. People took to social media to voice their opinions on the case, with speculation that President Trump was contemplating pardoning Gallagher should he have been found guilty.
The New York Times and other media outlets did not take the time to look at all of the available evidence, an uncomfortably common trend in highly publicized cases. Once closely examined, there was no evidence to corroborate the allegations against Gallagher. Furthermore, the evidence brought to light that Gallagher tried to save the prisoner’s life, rather than committing a brutal murder in the way that the media attempted to portray.
It also turned out that the younger SEALs who presented the allegations had previously been known to have a disdain for Gallagher. Lastly, and perhaps the most shocking, Navy SEAL medic Corey Scott confessed to killing the ISIS prisoner. Under court examination, he confessed to personally suffocating the prisoner as an act of mercy, explaining his concern about the torture that would have been inflicted on the boy by the Iraqi forces.
The jury, comprised of Marines, Navy officers, and SEALs, found Gallagher not guilty of murder and obstruction of justice charges, but did find him guilty on the count of taking a photograph with the dead body. Given his jail time prior to the trial, he will most likely only face Navy repercussions, which has already included a demotion in rank. His case, while not entirely excusable, was a prime example of the importance of the right to due process of law that is granted to Americans.