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.

The New York Times reports:

President Obama on Tuesday largely commuted the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of an enormous 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted the administration, and made WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures, famous.

The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to commit suicide last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the male military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.

A Facebook post about military sexual assault training:

“There’s no need to try to understand why sexual assaults are up 550% in the Military. All women have no ability to think after one drink and are not responsible for their actions but a Male soldier is responsible for his actions with one drink. What an insult to women everywhere!! ”

Instructor: “if you sleep with your wife after she’s been drinking you actually just raped her because she is too incapacitated to consent”

The most potentially relevant is McWilliams v. Dunn, No. 16-5294, involves a question regarding the degree of independence needed for appointed mental health experts under Ake v. Oklahoma.

Then there are:

Weaver v. Massachusetts, No. 16-240:  The defendant claims his lawyer was ineffective for failing to object to a closure of the courtroom during empanelment of the jury.  Violation of the right to a public trial, when considered directly, is a “structural” error that is reversible without a showing that it actually prejudiced the defendant, but an ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claim requires a showing of prejudice under Strickland v. Washington.  Does IAC require a showing of prejudice when the underlying error is “structural”?  I believe Strickland is clear enough that the answer is “yes,” but there is enough of a circuit split for the high court to take it up.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has decided United States v. Wilson, __ M.J. __, No. 16-0267/AR, for the appellant.  The issue was:

Whether the military judge erred in denying the defense motion for appropriate relief under Rule for Court-Martial 917 where the military judge improperly applied Article 130, housebreaking, to a motor pool.

A unanimous court found that the military judge erred.

CBS news has picked up this:

A former Fort Bragg soldier who killed four women and raped others more than 25 years ago is again headed for execution.

The Fayetteville Observer reports Ronald Gray last week lost a battle to keep in place a federal court’s order issued eight years ago blocking his execution.

“We thus readily conclude that ex parte communications between a military judge and an SVC are generally proscribed.”

Yes, inexplicably, it was necessary for the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (AFCCA) to decide such an issue, as part of deciding what impact, if any, SVC’s ex parte communications had in a trial–a chilling thought.

In United States v. Turner, (an Air Force case) the SVC decided to have a little confab with the military judge before trial, allegedly about administrative matters–until you read the facts.

O’Keeffe, Eamonn (2016) ““Such Want of Gentlemanly Conduct:” The General Court Martial of Lieutenant John de Hertel,” Canadian Military History: Vol. 25: Iss. 2, Article 2. <Available at: http://scholars.wlu.ca/cmh/vol25/iss2/2>

At this court-martial of a junior officer, the British Army assembled 15 more senior officers to serve as the “jury” in the case.  Today people whing about getting at least five officers in the same place.