Armed Forces: The My Lai Trials Begin

A sudden susurrus of shock ran through the Fort Hood, Texas, military courtroom. Defense Attorney Ossie Brown reacted as if someone had pinched his neck. The defendant, burly Staff Sergeant David Mitchell, 30, the first of the 17 soldiers so far charged in connection with the deaths of the My Lai villagers, stared in uncomprehending disbelief. Last week, just six hours and three witnesses into the proceedings, the lanky prosecutor, Captain Michael Swan, rose to say: "Your Honor, the prosecution rests its case."

It appeared to be a premature rest. Though known to...

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