Having previously gotten nowhere with their appeals to the military, the attorneys for former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance will soon have their appeal heard by a civilian federal court in Kansas. Lorance was convicted by a military court-martial of murdering two unarmed Afghan civilians on July 2, 2012. Lorance’s platoon, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, was operating in a hotbed of insurgent activity. The unit had already sustained four casualties on that deployment, including the platoon leader Lorance had replaced just days before.

Just minutes after leaving their base for a patrol, the platoon spotted three military-age Afghan males riding a motorcycle. Lorance ordered one of his men to fire. He squeezed off two rounds but missed. 

The Afghans stopped and dismounted their motorcycle, then began walking toward some nearby Afghan troops located at the front of the platoon’s column. The Afghan soldiers motioned for the civilians to go back. At this point, Lorance ordered one of his soldiers, manning an M-240B machine gun, to open fire. Two of the Afghan civilians were killed. The third was wounded but managed to escape.

Lorance was charged in August 2013 with second-degree murder, obstruction of justice, and other charges “related to a pattern of threatening and intimidating actions toward Afghans” as the unit’s platoon’s leader.

Several of his own soldiers testified against him, stating that the civilians posed no imminent hostile threat at the time of the incident. This helped secure his conviction. He was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor at the disciplinary barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas; forfeiture of all pay and allowances; and was given a bad conduct discharge from the Army.

In December of 2014, his lawyers requested an appeal citing prosecutorial misconduct. His supporters generated a petition with nearly 125,000 signatures calling on then-President Obama to pardon Lorance. The president refused to act, stating that any petition should be forwarded through appropriate channels via the Office of the Pardon Attorney. 

The commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen Richard Clarke, completed a review of Lorance’s case in January of 2015 and upheld the guilty verdict. Clarke did, however, reduce his 20-year sentence by one year due to post-trial delay. 

In September 2015, Lorance’s attorneys appealed the verdict, calling on the Army’s Court of Criminal Appeals to grant a new trial, claiming the prosecution had withheld evidence linking the two killed Afghans to terror networks. His legal team argued that biometric evidence proved at least one of the two men killed on the motorcycle had been linked to an improvised explosive device incident prior to this event.