The start date in a Fort Stewart soldier’s death penalty case has been delayed, to give the defense time to have their experts examine additional evidence and to accommodate witnesses coming to the United States from Iraq.
Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich’s court martial will officially begin March 28, and opening statements will be given April 18. The schedule changes were announced Monday during a motion hearing. The hearing continued into Tuesday.
Bozicevich is charged with two counts of pre-meditated murder in the deaths of Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson and Sgt. Wesley Durbin. Bozicevich is accused of shooting and killing the two men on Sept. 14, 2008, while deployed to a base south of Baghdad, Iraq. All three soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Military Judge Col. Tara Osborn announced she had granted Bozicevich’s defense attorneys’ motion for continuance and had modified the trial schedule.
In late December 2010, evidence including autopsy records, photographs and metal fragments recovered from the crime scene were received by the court. Osborn had granted the defense team’s request to travel to Iraq to interview witnesses and verify evidence and testimony gathered by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division in November 2010.
The judge also told the court the U.S. State Department was concerned about when witnesses would arrive and how long they would stay in the country. The witnesses Osborn referred to are Iraqi soldiers who were on the forwarding operating base when the shootings occurred.
In addition, defense and government attorneys sparred over whether one of the witnesses, Army Sgt. 1st Class John Dresel, would lie when called to testify.
Military defense attorney Maj. Amilcar Hernandez argued Dresel was not of good character and would likely fabricate facts when called to the stand because he was arrested by the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 on an aggravated stalking charge and had a number of restraining orders filed against him.
Government attorney Capt. Jacqueline Grieser countered Dresel had never been convicted of a felony and said the witness’s alleged misconduct occurred after the shootings in Iraq. Grieser added Dresel’s alleged offenses were in no way connected to the Bozicevich case. She said casting doubt on Dresel’s character would result in a “trial within a trial” and would “ultimately distract the panel” from considering the case against Bozicevich.
Osborn had not ruled on whether to disallow Dresel’s testimony by press time Tuesday.