March 29, 1951/1971 Rosenbergs/Calley Convicted
On March 29, 1951 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg convicted of conspiracy to sell U.S. atomic secrets to the U.S.S.R. The case was pockmarked with glaring inconsistencies (and the chief evidence against them was the testimony of Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, a convicted co-conspirator) -- but it was their fate to be tried during the height of McCarthyism. While most critics now concede Ethel was probably innocent, they were both executed June 19, 1953.
On March 29, 1971 Lt. William Calley Jr., of the U.S. Army, was found guilty of the premeditated murder of at least 22 Vietnamese civilians. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. (He spent three years under house arrest after the sentence was reduced by various levels in the command chain, with the final reduction by Nixon.) The trial was the result of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam on March 16, 1968. He is the fall guy for the Army's preferred tale that the massacre was an aberration rather than a result of U.S. policy and attitudes in Vietnam.
These two convictions were exactly twenty years to the day apart. They represent the unevenness of American justice at its worst. In the case of the Rosenbergs, the government was unable to prove that any actual espionage took place only that they conspired to do so. This means they executed for planning something that was never proven to have occurred. In the Calley case, there was no doubt that the massacre had occurred under his supervision. The problem here is the sentence was lightened to the point of absurdity. He now runs a jewelry store somewhere in the South. Any trials of his superiors were show trials for innocent verdicts. The only saving grace here was that unlike Iraq, the crap has not flowed downhill to every enlisted man involved.
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