Clint Lorance was a model soldier for ten years in the U.S. Army. Now he spends his days confined within United States Disciplinary Barracks. His promising career ended on July 2, 2012 when Clint, as a First Lieutenant and newly-appointed Platoon Leader in the U.S. Army, ordered his men to fire on three Afghan men approaching the Platoon’s patrol position. Clint acted solely out of a concern for the safety of his men, but was vilified as a blood-thirsty, trigger-happy soldier. Based on this inaccurate characterization, Clint was convicted of two counts of unpremeditated murder, one count of attempted murder, and other charges. He is currently serving a 19-year sentence in United States Disciplinary Barracks. Clint becomes eligible for parole in 2019. However, given the circumstances of the offense and the quality of his character, Clint respectfully requests that the President either commute the remainder of his sentence and grant his immediate release on parole or, in the alternative, grant Clint immediate parole eligibility.
Clint’s crimes were the result of a fear for the safety of his men in a fast-moving, chaotic wartime situation. Despite his inexperience in leading troops in combat, Army leaders placed Clint in command of a platoon that saw frequent combat in one of the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan. In fact, at the time of his offense, Clint had been in charge for less than 48 hours. Clint’s appointment was not undertaken under positive circumstances. In the months leading up to Clint’s appointment, First Platoon sustained four casualties, including the severe injury of its lieutenant. Despite his inexperience in combat, Army leaders promoted Clint in order to shore up a broken and battered unit. The first time Clint met his men, the war-weary soldiers of First Platoon had been removed from combat to receive combat stress medical treatment as they mourned the loss of their injured brethren. Seeing first-hand how that loss weighed on each man now under his command, Clint vowed to himself that he would do anything possible to prevent further injury or loss of life.
Clint’s determination was tested on July 2, 2012, just two days into his command of First Platoon. On that day, while leading only his second combat patrol ever, Clint was informed that three men were advancing towards the Platoon’s position on a motorcycle. Unfortunately for Clint, he stood at the bottom of a 6-foot tall grape berm which blocked all visibility to the access road or motorcycle. A combat-experienced soldier, positioned on top of the berm could see the motorcycle and interpreted it as a hostile threat. With mere seconds to react, Clint gave that soldier permission to fire, but the nervous soldier’s shots missed the target. The Army presented evidence at trial that the motorcycle slowed to a stop, at which point Clint gave an additional order to fire. Two of the men were killed and a third wounded.
The Army presented evidence that these men were unarmed and Clint’s second order unlawful. For his actions Clint was sentenced to 19 years in prison. However, neither the circumstances of the offense nor the motivations behind Clint’s orders justify this lengthy term of confinement. When Clint ordered fire he did not—indeed could not—know that these soon-to-be victims were unarmed. Since he lacked the adequate experience to evaluate the situation, Clint instead relied on the reports of his men and knowledge of the suffering so recently endured by First Platoon on that very battlefield.
Clint’s actions were the result of a young, inexperienced officer enduring the chaos of combat for the first time, but his sentence impermissibly suggests malicious intent. This result is unjust. Excessive punishment undermines the legitimacy of the criminal justice process. The President’s clemency powers serve as an important check on the judicial system to ensure that the interests of justice are served in fact rather than merely in appearance. No justice is served, no crimes are deterred, and no individuals are protected when, as here, a court imposes a punishment that is disproportionate to the crime and disconnected from the offender. Executive intervention is not only appropriate in this case, but necessary to prevent further injustice. For these reasons, Clint Lorance respectfully requests that the President either commute the remainder of his sentence and grant his immediate release on parole or, in the alternative, grant Clint immediate parole eligibility.