A Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, airman at the center of a death penalty case will ask the judge to dismiss at least one of three murder charges against him at a March 9 motions hearing.
Senior Airman Charles Wilson III is charged in the August 2013 deaths of his fiancé and their unborn child and the October 2011 death of a friend whom the prosecution alleges was hired by Wilson to burn down the airman's rental house.
The friend, Demetrius Hardy, died from injuries he suffered after setting fire to the airman's home. Wilson collected approximately $40,000 for the loss of his personal property in the fire, according to the government's statement of facts.
"We dispute this agreement [between Wilson and Hardy] ever existed," said defense attorney Lt. Col. David Frakt. "Even if it did, it would not support the charge of felony murder."
Military judge Col. Vance Spath will take up the argument to dismiss the charge March 9 along with at least a dozen other defense motions, including dismissal of seven other charges the defense calls "prosecutorial overreach."
"There are five separate charges related to the arson that we believe is excessive. There are five charges related to an unrelated [July 2012] domestic violence incident which we believe is excessive," Frakt said. "We have three different motions alleging unreasonable multiplication of charges."
The defense also plans to argue that the unborn child of homicide victim Tameda Ferguson does not qualify as a person as it relates to an aggravating factor in the alleged murder.
"If you commit the murder in a way that unlawfully and substantially endangers one or more other persons, that is an aggravating factor," Frakt said. "The government is alleging that when he shot a pregnant woman, he unlawfully and substantially endangered her fetus. The government acknowledges this is unprecedented. The law is quite clear for the purpose of an aggravating factor: the fetus does not qualify as a person."
A defense motion filed in January asking Spath to recuse himself based on the judge's obligations to oversee an upcoming trial at Guantanamo Bay was settled last month.
Frakt had cited a Jan. 7 regulation change signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work that such assignments "shall be the military judge's exclusive judicial duty."
Work reversed the order Feb. 26.
"We just wanted to make sure he [Spath] had the time to give full consideration to our client, and it's now clear he does," Frakt said. "We are satisfied his additional duty as a military commission judge will not impact our case."
The hearing is set to begin at 9 a.m. March 9 at the Houston County Courthouse in Perry, Georgia, and could last at least two days.
Wilson is set to stand trial July 13. If convicted in the capital case, he could be sentenced to death, although it is unlikely Wilson would be executed. The military has not carried out the death penalty in more than 50 years.