Travis Bishop Appellate Defense Fund
WHO IS TRAVIS BISHOP: Travis Bishop was a soldier at Fort Hood, Texas. On a deployment to Iraq, he began to question the morality of the war in the context of his Christian faith. Upon return, he settled back into normal Army life but this was disrupted by news of a second deployment, this time to Afghanistan. Like many soldiers, he did not know he had any options besides deploying, so he experienced serious anxiety and doubts about what he should do.
A few days before his scheduled deployment, Travis heard about his right to file for conscientious objector status as an active duty soldier. This news was too late though, so on the day of his deployment Travis left Fort Hood without authorization. He stayed away for about one week so he could seek legal counsel and prepare his conscientious objector claim. It was at this point that Travis contacted OCC’s supervising attorney, James M. Branum.
Upon return to Ft. Hood, Travis was prosecuted for multiple crimes (missing movement, AWOL and disobeying an order). Travis could have gotten an easier sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, but he instead decided to plead not guilty and demand his day in court. He did this because he wanted to press a creative legal argument at trial and on appeals, namely that the Army’s failure to inform him of his right to file for C.O. status, effectively deprived him of his right to seek C.O. status; also that a soldier who was effectively deprived of their right to file for C.O. status should have a defense to missing movement if their conscience compels them to go AWOL.
Travis was convicted at trial and received a sentence of 12 months in prison and a bad conduct discharge. While in custody at the brig at Fort Lewis, WA, and was subsequently declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. This resulted in more than 500 people from around the world writing to Travis’ commanding general asking for clemency, and in the end a successful RCM 1105 clemency action, which knocked three months off of Travis’ sentence.
Now that the clemency process is complete, Bishop and Branum are free to pursue appeals of the conviction itself.
WHY APPEAL? While Travis will soon be out of jail (likely in late March), the appeals are not moot. According to James, Travis hopes to achieve two things by appealing his conviction:
1. We hope that the appellate courts will recognize an extension of the Miranda decision, effectively making the argument that if a soldier is not told they can file for C.O. status, that the soldier has been denied that right. We also hope the courts will rule that a soldier can raise this issue as a defense to missing movement and other absence related offenses at court-martial.
Or to say it another way, we hope someday that all soldiers will be periodically read their “Bishop” rights.
2. We hope to see Travis’ conviction be overturnd and to see his Bad Conduct discharge be changed to Honorable.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
1. Travis will soon be filing an initial appeal with the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals (USACCA)
2. If he loses at the USACCA, he is able to appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (USCAAF). It is possible to further appeal a negative ruling by the USCAAF, but in most cases this requires “collateral review” under Habeas in a Federal district court.
3. While pursuing challenges through the courts, Travis also hopes to engage in public discourse on this issue. If the courts will not recognize our arguments, we hope to work through the Department of Defense to seek a change to the current C.O. regs and/or Congress to change federal statutes.
HOW YOU CAN HELP?
This is where OCC and, hopefully, you, come in. OCC has agreed to manage a special fund to help defray the legal costs for the appeal. We hope to be able to provide the means for Travis’s attorney to attend to the case with the care and attention it deserves. For him, this is a labor of love, but he also needs to be compensated for his time and work. Here’s what we are asking for your help with:
1. Tell your friends about Travis Bishop and encourage them to visit his website at: http://freetravisbishop.wordpress.com/
2. Once Travis is out (sometime in late March) he is willing to speak at public events. If you would like to bring him to your town, contact him through the website above. Travis also is an aspiring singer-songwriter, so book a concert!
3. You can donate for Travis’ appellate defense costs. We ask that donations be sent to:
Oklahoma Center for Conscience
504 NE 16th St
Oklahoma City, OK 73104
Checks should be made out to “Oklahoma Center for Conscience/Joy Mennonite Church.” (please include a note stating that your donation is for Travis Bishop appeals) All donations are tax-deductible.
Please note that in the unlikely event that donations are raised in excess of the final appellate defense costs, the excess will be earmarked for conscientious objector education and outreach by the Oklahoma Center for Conscience.
Also please note that this fund-raising drive is for Travis’ appellate case only. Courage to Resist (couragetoresist.org) took care of raising funds for Travis’ legal defenses costs at trial, his C.O. hearing and rebuttal and the 1105 clemency process.
Thanks in advance for your assistance and support.
Photo by Eric Thompson, used with permission.