This site is for the trial practitioner (the military lawyer) of military justice, and for the information of U.S. active duty, Guard, and reserve service-members, their spouses and their families. Our goal is to focus on trial practice issues in cases arising under the UCMJ and being tried at court martial. We hasten to add that nothing on this blog should be taken as specific legal advice for a specific client.

Can the actions of military prosecutors raise the specter of Unlawful Command Influence?

Maybe.

That conclusion can at least can be gleaned from the case of United States v. Garcia, decided in 2015 by the Army Court of Criminal Appeals.  (United States v. Garcia, No. 20130660, 2015 CCA LEXIS 335 (A. Ct. Crim. App. August 18, 2015)[ http://www.court-martial-ucmj.com/usvgarcia/].

This week, the Combat Clemency Project at the University of Chicago Law School petitioned for a Presidential Pardon on behalf of Corey R. Clagett, a former Army PFC released on March 31, 2016 from the US military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas after a decade of incarceration. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/review-combat-clemency-petitions-and-pursue-military-mental-health-reform

In United States v. Mercier, __ M.J. __, No. 20160318 (C.G. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 18, 2016) the court denied a Government interlocutory appeal of a military judge’s ruling that found that a specification was improperly referred and dismissed the specification without prejudice.

This would seem to be a perfect opportunity to take up, again, two suggested improvements to military law practice.

Let’s have the President issue an Executive Order.  The Attorney General of the United States issues several manuals for U. S. Attorneys.  This is guidance from HQ intended to assure some measure of uniformity among the U. S. Attorney offices throughout the nation.  It is time to impose something akin to the U. S. Attorney’s Manual by executive order (in particular, 9-27.000 – Principles Of Federal Prosecution)?

It should go without saying that a court-martial is a most serious matter, and the requirement for proof beyond a reasonable doubt plays a vital role in the legitimacy of the military justice system. A “society that values the good name and freedom of every individual should not condemn a man for commission of a crime when there is reasonable doubt about his guilt.”  In the military justice system, where servicemembers accused at court-martial are denied some rights provided to other citizens, our unique factfinding authority is a vital safeguard designed to ensure that every conviction is supported by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  This authority “provide[s] a source of structural integrity to ensure the protection of service members’ rights within a system of military discipline and justice where commanders themselves retain awesome and plenary responsibility.”

United States v. Rivera, No. 38649, 2016 CCA LEXIS 92 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 18, 2016)(unpub.).

CAAF’s Daily Journal for 25 March 2016 has this entry.

No. 16-0413/AR. In re Christopher E. Strunk, Christopher B. Garvey, and Harold W. Van Allen, Petitioners. Notice is hereby given that a petition under 28 USC §1651 for writ of mandamus and injunction equity relief in the matter of the New York Republican Party POTUS Primary on April 19, 2016, and the National General Election on November 8, 2016, was filed under Rule 27(a) on March 18, 2016, and placed on the docket this 24th day of March, 2016.  On consideration thereof, it is ordered that said petition is hereby dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Courtesy of Prof. Colin Miller and his excellent evidence blog, here are some thoughts for the day on prosecutor error.

Keep this in mind when the prosecution want’s to admit documents or reports.

6th Circuit Case w/Brady Violation Based on Nondisclosure of Cover Sheet About Unreliability of Evidence

The Sex Offender program is under revision.  The old sentencing requirements were 45 months to include abatement time (earned time/good conduct time/transportation time and consideration for treatment starting every quarter).

The new Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) requires at least 31 months sentencing to be considered for the program.  We do not advocate increasing or decreasing sentencing based on treatment requirements but in order to be eligible for SOTP the member must be sentenced to at least 31 months at time of arrival.

United States v. Plant was a difficult appeal, for a lot of reasons.  Ultimately we were able to get some relief at the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.  The court set-aside a conviction of child endangerment and ordered a sentence reassessment.

Faced with the issue back in the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals we argued that the case should be returned to the field for a rehearing on the sentence.  However, we argued the alternative remedy of disapproving one year of confinement.  We did that because that was the maximum potential punishment for the child endangerment charge.

Today we received the news that the AFCCA agreed with us on setting aside one year of confinement.  This means Plant will be released 16 months earlier than expected.

 

“If we prioritize conviction rates rather than having just verdicts, and if we vote that way in elections, this problem [of unfair, biased criminal prosecutions] will just continue.”

by Todd VanDerWerff on January 11, 2016, Netflix’s Making a Murderer: the directors explain what many have missed about the series.  Vox.com, January 11, 2016.

Prosecutorial bias permeates the American judicial system. Prosecutors hell-bent on victory often directly or indirectly prod investigators and experts to get the results they want. It’s refreshing to see a judge recognize this in a well-reasoned, groundbreaking decision.