For Former Military Lawyer Colby Vokey, the Defense Never Rests

Once an outspoken judge advocate, Dallas' Colby Vokey was chased from the Marines, but he's still defending troops -- and still speaking his mind.

"Instead, why don't you tell them a story?" he says. "If you put it into action, it's exciting."

Proper context is key in these cases, he says, especially in his defense of Wuterich. "First, understand the area of Haditha, which was the heartbeat of the insurgency," Vokey says, in an assuring cadence that becomes even more pronounced in the courtroom. "As soon as the explosion happens, there are no people out there. There are no cars ... except one car. The Marines respond as they should, having suspected these guys might be the triggermen." Vokey maintains that the men in the car were insurgents, even though they weren't found to be armed.

Wuterich and his men were also in the "fog of war," Vokey says. They did not have the luxury of reflection that the court has. In clearing the houses after coming under fire, Wuterich "did what he was trained to do," Vokey says."This is moments after they're in a firefight and they're getting shot at, and they identify the enemy and shoot them."

Vokey's work has taken him to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he posed with members of the local police force.
Courtesy of Colby Vokey
Vokey's work has taken him to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he posed with members of the local police force.
Vokey, a retired lieutenant colonel, says he discovered his interest in the law serving on a jury in Dallas.
Courtesy of Colby Vokey
Vokey, a retired lieutenant colonel, says he discovered his interest in the law serving on a jury in Dallas.

The Wuterich case dragged on for years, with appeals and procedural delays constantly pushing it back and pulling Vokey closer. "Because I was with him for so long and I got to know Frank so well," Vokey says, "I really love the guy."


It's December 15, 2011, the day that marks the end of the war in Iraq. Vokey is just back from a trip to North Carolina, where he attended a hearing in an attempted murder case he's working. He arrives at his office in jeans and a relaxed long-sleeved shirt to catch up on work. There's a dip of chewing tobacco tucked invisibly into his lip, and he spits into a cup so politely that the habit, which he shares in common with so many servicemen, is almost unnoticeable.

When the war began, Vokey says, he was on active duty and believed everything he'd heard about weapons of mass destruction. He supported President Bush and the Marines, and had no reason to second-guess his loyalties.

But when no weapons were found, Vokey says, his view on the war unraveled. "You kind of wonder how we could screw up that bad," he says. He also had an up-close view of the troops broken by combat — and in the Omar Khadr case, of Guantanamo prisoners who he says didn't stand a chance at justice. He slowly came to the conclusion that he was working within a system that was imperfect, and eventually, unbearable.

"If our guys make a mistake, instead of getting the benefit of the doubt or support, they get serious charges thrown on them," Vokey says. The young men are sent to do some pretty terrible things, but charges loom if they don't do those terrible things just so. Rules of Engagement read more like jury instructions, Vokey says, and troops are often left to make their own judgment calls. Bad calls lead them to lawyers like Vokey, and to the courtroom.

Vokey also takes issue with the amount of power military commanders hold in court martial procedures. They determine the charges, select the jury and assess witness admissibility. "The commander is everybody and everything," says civilian military lawyer and retired Colonel Jane Siegel, former chief of defense lawyers in the Marine Corps and Vokey's former boss.

"Military justice has, as its fundamental goal, to advance the cause of good order and discipline in the armed forces," adds Retired Marine Brigadier General David Brahms, who serves on the board of directors of the Judge Advocates Association and worked with Vokey on the Haditha case. "I don't quarrel with the purpose; I quarrel with the process, which I don't believe in practice achieves that goal. We have a bastardized system ... military justice is often a pain in the ass."

Vokey's willingness to endure that pain, and dish some out himself, earned him the respect of his fellow military lawyers. That includes Brahms, who still refers clients to Vokey.

"There is a very small cohort of top-drawer civilian counsel," Brahms says, estimating that cohort at around 10 people nationwide. "Colby fits in that group."

Army Specialist Michael Wagnon is the sort of client Brahms might send Vokey's way. He was charged with murder in 2010, part of a "Kill Team" accused of killing civilians for sport in Afghanistan. "Our first meeting was awesome," Wagnon says in a phone interview. "He put in a dip of Copenhagen. I was like, 'Holy crap, you're dippin' in the facility.' From right there, I was like, 'Yep, this is my guy.' ... He came off as the kind of guy you would want on your side in a fight. The prosecution offered plea deals until shortly before his scheduled trial, but Vokey wouldn't budge. "I tell them no way — not just no, but hell no," Vokey says.

A month before Wagnon's trial, his phone rang while he was driving with a friend. It was Vokey. "Hey, I got good news," Wagnon remembers him saying. "Hey brother, they dropped the charges." He was the only one of 12 soldiers in his platoon charged with crimes ranging from using illegal drugs to murder to have his case dismissed.

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6 comments
jameswrangler472
jameswrangler472

Basically an attorney travels through various odds in their life especially if they simply related to defense background, here also we have been witnessed a number of odds issues charge against the defense attorney
Mr. Dallas' Colby Vokey who is preferred as one of the best ever military lawyer in the world. So it's have been an honor to go through a look on the life of this great attorney.


http://www.virginiasinjurylawyers.com/bio/damon-pendleton.cfm


Internet Attorney Los Angeles
Internet Attorney Los Angeles

Although most of these attorneys are good and knowledgeable, different attorneys have different abilities. Therefore, the lawyer you decided must have right abilities to deal with your case. This is because the things to be resolved in bankruptcy may confirm very hard to understand. For example, you could be interacting against a very sensible and innovative person.

fratdawgg23
fratdawgg23

Vokey sounds like a dedicated, sincere and intelligent defense attorney who advocates aggressively for his clients. A good defense attorney has always been crucial in our adversarial system of justice and even more nowadays since there is money to be made in the private prison business.

Pacificpaddle
Pacificpaddle

I served with Colby Vokey in the USMC in Dallas, and abroad. He's a warrior, citizen, friend, and top notch lawyer. If you are in need of an advocate and counselor at law, you cannot do better than Colby Vokey. Semper Fi.

HS
HS

Vokey is to be commended for his dedication to his clients, and to "doing the right thing". The advantages of the UCMJ as opposed to civilian law are all too often lost due to undue command influence. Too bad his military career was stunted by not being selected for professional dev. courses like Command & General Staff College. More than attending such institutions, he should lecture at them.

 
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