The judge told both sides to write briefs for a later hearing.
Just before 5 p.m., the members announced the sentence: 25 years in Ft. Leavenworth.
"Twenty-five years?" Michael repeated. "I'll be 50 when I get out."
Three weeks later, Dixon denied the mistrial motion, saying MacDonell's testimony wouldn't have changed the verdict. He said an affidavit MacDonell signed, saying exactly what he told prosecutors and when, was not credible.
This ruling, on March 20, had the thud of finality. Vicki's throat and chest tightened.
She and Scott tried to console Michael. He tried to console them. She wondered what she could have done differently.
Why did she encourage him to join the ROTC? Why did she say serving his country was honorable? Why couldn't she have protected him when her father was abusing him as a child?
An officer came with handcuffs to take Michael away.
"Everybody is going to forget about this, aren't they Mom?" Michael asked.
"As long as there is breath in me, I'll tell your story," Vicki said.
She walked out front to see the van take him away. She wanted to wave, but thought he'd be embarrassed -- as if he were still just a boy, on the bus to summer camp. For the first time, she broke down completely.
In June, 25 prominent Oklahoma attorneys wrote the Secretary of the Army calling the trial "a miscarriage of justice" and demanding a new one. They said "it is rank speculation to pretend that even an experienced jurist can know how the court members could react to this startling fact -- that the government's own expert, renowned in the field of forensics, concluded the defense's theory of the case was 'the only logical explanation of this shooting.' "
Army officials have declined to comment but have said in court that they divulged everything they knew, and that MacDonell's testimony would have been insignificant.
Vicki and Scott want the Army command to answer for the whole chain of events.
Why did they have Michael return Mansur that day, knowing that he thought this was the man behind the killing of his soldiers?
And why -- amid all the bloodshed and civilian death -- did they prosecute this case as premeditated murder?
In July, the court-martial authority reduced the sentence to 20 years. The difference is an abstraction now, as Behenna is learning to navigate the vagaries of Ft. Leavenworth.
His parents make the five-hour drive north every weekend. They hired Zimmerman for the appeal, and are getting help from a law professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Vicki thanks God for an 88-year-old man she never met. MacDonell's last-minute e-mail has kept the future from slamming shut. Her voice catches when she speaks of him.
"If he didn't send that e-mail we would have no hope in the world," she says. "We would have nothing."