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.

Sixty years after Congress created the UCMJ to protect accused servicemembers from abusive and arbitrary punishment, a significant faction in Congress now believes it must be almost completely dismantled and restructured because is is not being used aggressively enough. Multiple federal organizations and a fair number of outside parties consider the notion of due process in student disciplinary hearings, the result of courage in the civil rights era, as an obstacle to be overcome or circumvented in the name of “accountability.” The federal government has used its formidable authority to shape institutional responses to sexual assault, but the aggressive rush to “fix” the problem subordinates notions of due process, truth-seeking, and even the presumption of innocence. Fueled by an underlying assumption that too few perpetrators are sufficiently punished, the poignant and emotionally-charged environment of sexual assault threatens otherwise broadly accepted principles of justice. And in that setting, it is difficult for anyone in a position of both power and publicity to argue for policies that will be seen as making it harder to punish rapists. Nonetheless, the “obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as [the] obligation to govern at all.”[1]


[1] Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935).

There are some interesting articles for military justice practitioners in the Summer 2015, MLR.

Barracks, Dormitories, and Capitol Hill: Finding Justice in the Divergent Politics of Military and College Sexual Assault
3.  By Major Robert E. Murdough.pdf
Rudderless: 15 Years and Still Little Direction on the Boundaries of Military Rule of Evidence 513
4.  By Major Michael Zimmerman.pdf
Open-Ended Pharmaceutical Alibi: The Army’s Quest to Limit the Duration of Controlled Substances for Soldiers
5.  By Major Malcolm Wilkerson.pdf
A Better Understanding of Bullying and Hazing in the Military
7.  By Major Stephen M. Hernandez.pdf

At trial, the Government repeatedly sought to use Edwards’s silence after he was Mirandized as substantive proof of guilt as well as for impeachment purposes. Over Edwards’s objection, the Government emphasized in its closing that Edwards had remained silent after law enforcement showed him the contents of the suitcase, suggesting a culpable state of mind. The Government in its brief and at oral argument concedes that this was error under Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610 (1976), but urges that the error was harmless.

So says the Third in United States v. Edwards.  Result–new trial.

And, for those who follow this issue of how the prosecution and appellate courts seek to forgive such error.  The court noted:

Nor did the District Court’s belated and ineffective curative instruction after the parties’ closings had been completed mitigate the effects of the Government’s conduct.

Brady Reconstructed: An Overdue Expansion of Rights and Remedies

Leonard Sosnov
Widener University – School of Law


New Mexico Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2014

Over fifty years ago, the Supreme Court held in Brady v Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), that the Due Process Clause requires prosecutors to disclose materially favorable evidence to the defense. The Brady Court emphasized the need to treat all defendants fairly and to provide each accused with a meaningful opportunity to present a defense. While Brady held great promise for defendants to receive fundamentally fair access to evidence, the subsequent decisions of the Court have fallen short of meeting this promise.

Since Brady, the Court has limited the disclosure obligation by failing to separately determine rights and remedies. Additionally, in cases involving access to evidence that is not Brady material, the Court has required the defendant to demonstrate that the government withheld the evidence in bad faith. The Court’s commingling of rights and remedies, along with its insertion of a bad faith requirement, has made it nearly impossible for defendants to succeed on due process challenges to the government’s failure to preserve evidence or to provide evidence to the defense for examination and testing.

The Court’s access to evidence jurisprudence has stagnated for decades. During this time, much has changed. DNA testing has become a powerful exculpatory tool for the defense. Additionally, in recent years, the scientific community and the Court have recognized the potential for error on the part of government forensic scientists due to incompetence or bias.

This article provides a framework of analysis for access to evidence rights and remedies issues. It then applies that framework to advocate the necessary long overdue expanded due process protections that the Court should recognize.

Regardless of the type of case, motive to falsely testify of a primary witness is almost always of some relevance.  The recent case of Nappi v. Yelich, from the Tenth highlights that.

The Sixth Amendment’s confrontation right, which applies equally to defendants in state prosecutions, “means more than being allowed to confront the witness physically.”  Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308, 315 (1974).  It includes a right of cross-examination, which provides “the principle means by which the believability of a witness and the truth of his [or her] testimony are tested.”  Id. at 316; see also Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39, 52 (1987) . . ..  To be sure, a trial judge has discretion to limit or preclude inquiry into collateral, repetitive, or “unduly harassing” subjects.  Davis, 415 U.S. at 316.  But this discretion has limits and “the exposure of a witness’ motivation in testifying is a proper and important function of the constitutionally protected right of cross‐examination.”  Id. at 316‐17.

The state court’s conclusion that cross‐examination of the state’s main witness’ motive for testifying was a collateral matter was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent.  See Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 679 (1989) (ruling that preventing cross‐examination on a subject the “jury might reasonably have found furnished the witness a motive for favoring the prosecution in his testimony” violated the defendant’s Confrontation Clause right); Brinson v. Walker, 547 F.3d 387, 392 (2d Cir. 2008) .

And for the sexual assault case:

In Olden v. Kentucky, defendants were prosecuted for, among other things, rape; the defense was consent and that the victim had a motive to lie to conceal her extramarital relationship.  488 U.S. 227, 228‐30 (1988) (per curiam).  The state court prevented defendant from exposing this alleged motive to lie, but the Supreme Court concluded that this ruling “failed to accord proper weight to petitioner’s Sixth Amendment right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”  Id. at 231 (internal quotation marks omitted).  Here, as in Olden, the testimony of a witness whose motive was at issue was “central, indeed crucial, to the prosecution’s case.”  Id. at 233. “If the purpose of cross‐examination is to explore more than general credibility, the subject of inquiry is not collateral.”  Dunbar v. Harris, 612 F.2d 690, 693 (2d Cir. 1979).

Protecting the Privacies of Digital Life: Riley v. California, the Fourth Amendment’s Particularity Requirement, and Search Protocols for Cell Phone Search Warrants

William Clark, Boston College, Law School, Students

June 30, 2015

Boston College Law Review, Forthcoming


In 2014, in Riley v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the police must obtain a warrant before searching a cell phone. Lower courts have struggled to determine what scope limitations judges should place on cell phone warrants in order to ensure that these warrants do not devolve into general searches. This Note argues that the Fourth Amendment’s particularity requirement mandates that the government submit search protocols, technical documents that explain the search methods the government will use on the seized device, for cell phone search warrants. Detailed search protocols will ensure that cell phone search warrants have a particularized scope and thereby protect the privacies of life modern cell phones contain.

Of course the danger for men in particular is enhanced by the fraud propagated during sexual assault training that one drink means no consent.  I think it fair to call this aspect of training a fraud because it is medically and legally false.  And, in my view knowingly so.


No. 15-0664/AF. U.S. v. Sean J. Chero. CCA 38470.  On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:


No briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

See United States v. Booker, 72 M.J. 787 (N.M. Ct. Crim. App. 2013),  referenced in the AFCCA opinion.