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Judge defers death penalty case ruling
Sgt Jospeh Bozicevich
Sgt. Jospeh Bozicevich - photo by File photo
Military Judge Col. Tara Osborn deferred ruling on whether a 3rd Infantry Division soldier accused of shooting his squad leader and fellow team leader should face the death penalty.
Osborn took no action on the defense’s request to drop the death penalty in the murder case against Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich during a routine hearing Wednesday on Fort Stewart. The judge also deferred ruling on another defense motion to increase the number of panelists (jurors) from nine to 12.
The judge said these motions will be reconsidered at the next motion hearing Aug. 26. Requests by the defense to revoke the death penalty and re-open an investigation into the murder charges against Bozicevich were first considered in a motion hearing last month on Fort Stewart. The court martial is set to begin Feb. 7, 2011.
Bozicevich’s civilian defense attorney Charles Gittins previously had alleged his client’s right to due process was violated because the investigating officer in the case did not properly investigate “aggravating factors.” Aggravating, or mitigating, factors are information or evidence regarding the circumstances of a crime or a defendant that might result in a lesser sentence or reduced charges. A defendant’s mental health may be considered a mitigating factor in death penalty cases.
Bozicevich is charged with two counts of pre-meditated murder in the deaths of Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson, 24, of Pensacola, Fla., and Sgt. Wesley Durbin, 26, of Dallas, Texas. All three soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
The issue of delayed payments for contract services rendered by the defense’s expert witnesses dominated the hearing as did the defense’s assertion that the case was not properly transferred during the post’s transfer of jurisdiction last fall. 3rd ID deputy commander general-rear Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips took over rear-detachment duties for 3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo when Cucolo deployed to Iraq.
Gittins said “it strains credibility” that “the biggest case on the docket isn’t transferred from one (jurisdiction) to the other.”
Army prosecutors said it was an “oversight” Bozicevich’s case was not listed with other cases on a transfer of jurisdiction memorandum and asserted there was proper jurisdiction over the case. 
Gittins also voiced concern about having his expert witnesses paid in a timely fashion so he can be prepared for trial. The defense attorney said his fingerprint expert quit over the non-payment issue, but has since agreed to be rehired.
“What we have here is a systemic problem in the (Fort Stewart) contracting office,” he said.
Osborn said she granted Gittins’ earlier request for a continuance in part because of the funding issue.
“I want these funding issues resolved,” she told Army prosecuting attorneys. The judge suggested when funding problems rise government attorneys should approach upper level leaders in the budget department for help.
Army prosecutors said the payment delays stemmed from the post budget department’s use of a new finance software program.
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