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.

"The key to Colby Vokey is that he's got integrity," Brahms says, "right down to the tip of his little finger."

Vokey's career since the wars has been a constant stream of challenges to that integrity. While he was defending Wuterich in the Haditha case, another case from Iraq hit his office. An eight-man squad had killed an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania and staged the death so it appeared the unarmed man had been setting a bomb.

Platoon members were hit with a slew of charges, including murder. Vokey was responsible for staffing their defense teams, no small task for an office overburdened with cases. Manpower and office space were at a premium. Vokey ordered his lawyers, most of them relatively inexperienced and stretched to the point of snapping, not to take new cases.

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.

"For as long as I can remember there was always an issue as to whether the defense had enough people and enough experience to balance what the government had," Siegel says. Fighting for more meant fighting the people with the power to promote. "He always put his clients before his career, and that's rare in the Marine Corps," Siegel says.

Vokey's superiors eventually allowed his team of lawyers to expand to another floor of the building, displacing the prosecutors there. Their office was dubbed the "pirate ship," with a skull-and-crossbones flag flying in the hallway and pirate bric-a-brac scattered throughout.

Five of the eight soldiers charged in the Hamdania case pleaded guilty to lesser crimes, and they were all sentenced to less than two years. Of the three who went to court martial, two were sentenced to 14 months in prison. The squad leader was sentenced to 15 years, which was later reduced to 11.

Vokey's son-in-law, Jeff Lang, a Marine who met Vokey's daughter at Camp Pendleton, worked with several of the men charged in the Hamdania case. "It was kind of a big shock," he says, sitting in Vokey's living room one February afternoon. "You almost expected something like that to happen eventually." War, he says, has a way of twisting scenarios and changing men.

In his own deployment, Lang and his platoon mates had arrested an Iraqi man known to be a threat, only to see him on the street again the next day because the paperwork was filled out wrong. The man would wave to them, constantly taunting, until they stopped walking near the place he lived.

"Your temper just kind of goes up real quick when you see that," Lang says. "You can only get poked so many times before you poke back." When you poke back is when Vokey gets the call.


Less than seven months before the Haditha and Hamdania cases, Vokey had a brief stretch of relative quiet, lasting no more than two months. With the wars still raging, it couldn't last. That was when he was hit with the Omar Khadr case, the one that continuously poked back at Vokey.

Colonel Dwight Sullivan, the former Chief Defense Counsel for the Office of Military Commissions, assigned the Khadr case to Vokey, who'd made a name for himself as the "go-to" guy for the toughest cases. "And that case was a hard mission," Sullivan says.

Vokey was busy managing cases as regional defense counsel — cases in which the accused were all soldiers, not unlike the 28-year-old father whom Khadr stood accused of killing. Vokey knew that taking Khadr's case meant missing certain opportunities for military promotion, like leading a battalion or going to a war college. He didn't know that he was up against a system he would quickly come to despise.

"It was a lawless legal system, is what it was," he says. "John Adams would roll over in his grave if he saw what was going on there."

The military commissions system at Guantanamo, Vokey says, was a flawed mechanism that Congress has since improved. "It was designed to convict," Vokey says. "Do you cite federal law, international law, military cases, U.S. constitutional law? It didn't really matter because they would always say, 'That's not applicable.'"

On one trip to see Khadr, a guard paged through Vokey's notebook from the previous day's interview with his client. Vokey complained to the guard's superior, who ignored Vokey's complaint. "We don't do that here," the superior insisted.

At one point, the prosecution and defense debated whether Khadr was considered a child soldier under international law. "Omar, he's really the first one in modern history — a juvenile to be tried for a war crime," Vokey says. When he raised the issue that Khadr was captured at 15, Vokey says, the government responded: He's not a juvenile anymore, so we can try him.

"It was ludicrous to think like that," Vokey says. "God, it rips your heart out to see it all happening." Vokey came to fear that the young man would kill himself. "Depression, hopelessness, he had no idea who he could trust, even, including me," Vokey says.

One night, Vokey's paralegal, Sergeant Heather Cerveny, was out with several Guantanamo guards when they began nonchalantly talking about abusing prisoners. She shared the story with Vokey, who told her to write an affidavit. He filed a complaint with the Pentagon, and together they detailed the situation to ABC News. His bosses responded by placing them under a gag order. Vokey was threatened with charges for making false claims, he says, but they never materialized. "I should have known it was just a harbinger of bad things to come," Vokey says. (Colonel Carol Joyce, the supervisor who ordered Vokey to keep quiet, did not return the Observer's calls or emails.)

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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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