Criminal Justice

Veterans Outraged Over Decision Downplaying Influence of Purple Heart Lie


Veterans are outraged by a federal appeals court decision upholding a conviction for solicitation to commit murder, even though the chief prosecution witness falsely claimed on the witness stand that he had a Purple Heart.

The witness, Elven Swisher, wore a replica of the medal as he testified and said he received the Purple Heart because of his service in the Korean War, the New York Times reports. Swisher testified that the defendant, David Hinkson, asked him to kill three federal officials, knowing that he had killed many men in combat.

On appeal, Hinkson claimed jurors believed he was guilty of more than loose talk because of Swisher’s false claims about his military background. In reality, he had never seen combat.

The en banc 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco upheld Hinkson’s conviction, first on a 7-4 vote. Judge Alex Kozinski changed his mind in Hinkson’s favor in July, but the 6-5 tally still favored the prosecution. Hinkson’s lawyers plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

One of the people expressing outrage is William Mac Swain, president of the Korean War Veterans Association. In a brief filed with the 9th Circuit after the initial decision, he asserted that its reasoning and language “are a slap in the face to veterans and jurors alike.”

Previous coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Testy 9th Circuit Judges Consider Purple Heart Lie”

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