Articles Posted in Appeals

The Army Court of Criminal Appeals has decided United States v. Hennis, the military’s latest death penalty appeal.

The opinion is 106 pages long, so it will take a little time read.  But what struck me immediately were the statistics.

The case was heard en banc.  However, of 12 judges assigned to court and initially eligible to participate, all but four were disqualified for one reason or another.

In United States v. Lopez, Army Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, but there is no opinion on the Army court website and I don’t see it in Lexis.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has specified an issue for review in this case as follows:

No. 16-0487/AR. U.S. v. Mario I. Lopez. CCA 20140943 [2016 CAAF LEXIS 773].  On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue specified by the Court:

This article showed that the vast majority of court-martial sentences are affirmed by AFCCA. On the rare occasion when sentence relief was granted, it was usually not based on factual sufficiency or sentence appropriateness. While there has been some fluctuation in how often AFCCA grants sentence relief, it is minimal and to some extent explained by the influence CAAF has on it.

That’s the conclusion of Maj. Kevin Gotfredson and Capt. Micah Smith in their article, Sentence Relief: At the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals During the Last 10 Years.  43(3) THE REPORTER 21 (2016).  Their research was motivated by public discussion of an “epidemic” number of valid convictions being reversed because of “factual sufficiency.”

See more discussion at my website here.


The NMCCA has issued two significant opinions this week, one of which is worth the read while the United States prosecution of Bowe Bergdahl continues.

United States v. Solis, __ M.J. ___ (N-M Ct. Crim. App. 2016).  The case presents discussion of continuing issues relating to the nature of the proof and member (jury) instructions in military sexual assault cases.  These types of cases, especially where alcohol is involved present complex challenges to the military defense counsel.

  1. Article 120(b)(3)(A) of the UCMJ is unconstitutional because the language “incapable of consenting to the sexual act because she was impaired by . . . alcohol” is unconstitutionally vague.

Is it an indecent exposure offense under UCMJ art. 120, to show someone a digital picture of your own genitals?

In a published opinion in United States v. Williams, __ M.J. __, No. 20140401 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 30, 3016), the Army Court of Criminal Appeals split 2-1 in deciding the case.  The court holds that the offense of indecent exposure in violation of Article 120(n) (2006) and 120c(c) (2012) does not include showing a person a photograph or digital image of one’s genitalia.

That’s the BLUF.

I have commented on this before–post-CAAF habeas corpus, but a new case from the 9th is time for a reminder.

Narula v. Yakubisin (CO, NAVCONBRING Miramar), No. 15-55658 (9th Cir. 17 May 2016).

It is common for the military appellant to think about federal court once their military appeal is complete.  The route to federal court is through a federal habeas corpus proceeding, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2241.  It is rare to get past a motion to dismiss, let alone win on the merits.

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


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)[].

On 30 November 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Musacchio v. United States, a case of potential interest to military justice practitioners.

There are two questions presented.

(1) Whether the law-of-the-case doctrine requires the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal case to be measured against the elements described in the jury instructions where those instructions, without objection, require the government to prove additional or more stringent elements than do the statute and indictment; and