Marine drill instructor Steven Smiley sobs and apologizes as he was allowed to kill rookie Dalton Beals during boot camp
- Staff Sergeant Steven Smiley has been cleared of negligent homicide after a Navy recruit died during his grueling training session
- Marine recruit Dalton Beals, 19, died of hypothermia during Smiley’s 54-hour training on ‘Crucible’ on June 4, 2021
A Navy drill instructor has been cleared of negligent homicide after a Navy recruit died during his grueling training session.
Staff Sergeant Steven Smiley was found not guilty of negligent homicide and four other counts by an eight-person military jury for the 2021 death of Marine recruit Dalton Beals.
Beals, a 19-year-old freshman from New Jersey, died of hypothermia during Smiley’s 54-hour “Crucible” training on June 4, 2021.
A military report on the incident said his death was preventable and not due to the recruits’ own conduct.
But jurors accepted claims by Smiley’s attorneys that Beals died of an undiagnosed heart condition.
Smiley appeared to break down with emotion after being acquitted at Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island on Friday, before apologizing to Beals’ family for the loss of their son.
Staff Sergeant Steven Smiley was cleared of negligent homicide and four other counts by an eight-person military jury
The New Jersey teenager disappeared for more than an hour before being found
Marine recruit Dalton Beals died of hypothermia during Smiley’s 54-hour training on ‘Crucible’ on June 4, 2021
The prosecution argued, supported by medical experts, that Beals had been overwhelmed by heat stroke and that Smiley had pushed the recruits too hard.
Prosecution Lt. Col. Ian Germain argued Smiley tried to ‘break’ the recruits and ordered more drills despite the 90 degree heat.
Germain alleged that “Beals was handed over to Steven Smiley who treated him like he was going to break him and not do it and that’s why we’re here”.
He also argued that the Seargent failed to recognize the clear signs of heat exhaustion in Beals and ignored a warning from a recruit who tried to inform him that Beals was missing.
Beals disappeared for over an hour before being found.
However, the defense appeared to be successful in convincing the jury that Beals had a pre-existing heart condition that contributed to his death.
Smiley’s attorney, Colby Vokey, told the jury “if the conditions in the crucible are hot or harsh, that’s not within the purview of Staff Sergeant.” Smiley.’
He asked the jury not to “make (Smiley) a scapegoat because of a tragic event”.
A military report into the incident said his death was preventable and not due to the recruits’ own conduct
Smiley’s ‘Crucible’ training lasted 54 hours and was sometimes conducted in 90 degree heat
Stacie Beals, Dalton’s mum, thinks Smiley (pictured) ‘confused’ her son
Beals died shortly after one of the drills during the 54-hour hardcore session.
The teenager is said to have participated in a pugil stick competition in which fighters from two competing platoons don what look like football helmets and smash each other with padded sticks.
Beals’ mother, Stacie Beals, previously told the New York Post that she believed Smiley had “confused” her son and was “self-righteous”.
“He was going to make his platoon the top platoon. It was an ego trip for him.
Stacie also told the Post that she never thought he might have died in practice.
“I didn’t want him on the front line. It was my concern. I wasn’t worried about anything happening to Dalton in the United States.
“The last thing I was worried about was his death while training in his own country,” she said.
Shortly before he died, Dalton wrote to his mother that he was glad she saw him in his Marines uniform, but she didn’t until his funeral.
“It was an open-air burial with Dalton in his uniform,” Stacie said.
“It was heartbreaking, a sight I will never forget. We miss him. What happened to my son is still hard to believe.