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Soldier says Army can't try him for triple homicide

Posted February 23, 2010

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— A Fort Bragg soldier charged with killing a Fayetteville woman and her two daughters almost 25 years ago claims in a federal lawsuit that the Army doesn't have the authority to try him for the crimes.

Master Sgt. Timothy Hennis is charged in the deaths of Kathryn Eastburn and two of her daughters, who were killed in their Fayetteville home on May 9, 1985.

Hennis, who was stationed at Fort Bragg at the time of the murders, was convicted in state court and sentenced to die in 1986. The state Supreme Court granted him a retrial after ruling that prosecutors had used graphic crime scene photos to inflame the jury in his original trial.

A second jury acquitted Hennis in 1989.

An investigator with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office uncovered new DNA evidence in the case several years ago, and the Army recalled Hennis to active duty in 2006 so he could be tried in military court. A trial is set to begin next week.

Hennis' attorneys contend that previous court rulings have set a standard that, after someone has been discharged from the armed services, he or she cannot be court-martialed for crimes that occurred before the discharge.

Hennis was discharged from the Army in October 1986, but after his acquittal, he was given credit for three more years of service and was awarded an honorable discharge in June 1989.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle has scheduled a Friday hearing on Hennis' lawsuit.


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  • fishbone15 Feb 23, 2010

    We shouldn't keep letting our laws interpret the truth for us. If the evidence is there then he needs to stand trial, regardless.

  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness Feb 23, 2010

    Yet another case to teach people that the courtroom is not about "the truth" but rather about the law.

    "Let justice be done" is a different cry than "Let the truth be done."

    As for the case itself, I'll leave it to the lawyers, judges, and courts decide the merits.

  • killing_me_softly Feb 23, 2010

    Oh, the wonderful world we live in. (sarcasm)

  • Tarheelfan13 Feb 23, 2010

    Prancy is correct that as odd as it sounds double jeopardy does not apply when the crime is being tried at different levels of government. Basically one can be tried in both federal and state court for the same crime. But the subject of discharge is a valid one because the United States Supreme Court in 1955 ruled in Toth vs Quarles that the military loses jurisdiction to court martial an individual once they are discharged.

  • Prancy Feb 23, 2010

    While it seems odd, it is not unconstiutional to prosecute someone in federal court and state court for the same thing. It is NOT double jeopardy. They are two different crimes even though they are the same set of facts. It may seem unfair, but it is legal.

    The article says that his attorneys are not arguing that he is being subjected to double jeopardy, they know that is not the case. But they are arguing that the military lost jurisdiction of any crimes he committed before his discharge. I'm not sure about this. They are probably just a grabbing at straws for something to use on appeal.

  • ty will belabor a point Feb 23, 2010

    We can't set aside our country's code of justice even IF it erred once./endquote

    that's why the Military has it's own code of justice. The two are not interchangeable and in fact, are explicitly designed that way with two criminal codes and penal systems... one has nothing to do with the other...

  • obs Feb 23, 2010

    You are right, he was fairly acquitted by a civilian court. It seems like the constitution is being twisted if the military court can charge him with the exact same crime.

  • wildcat Feb 23, 2010

    He walks. Trying him again, would serve what purpose?

  • discowhale Feb 23, 2010

    Guilt or innocence aside, how is this NOT double jeopardy if he was acquitted once? We can't set aside our country's code of justice even IF it erred once. Would any of us stand a chance if there was no double jeopardy statute? The courts could just keep after us until we were convicted.