Articles Posted in Motions Practice

so starts a post at wrongfulconvictionsblog–Junk Science Reigns ____ So Much for True Science in the Courtroom.

[W]hen the National Academy of Sciences report Forensic Science in the United States; A Path Forward was published

people thought we might see a true effort to address “junk science being used to convict innocent people.”

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.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41fKNcDSrOL._SL75_.jpgOn 20 May 2016, the President, exercising his powers under UCMJ art. 36, signed an executive order amending the Manual for Courts-Martial.  Changes to the rules of evidence are included.  It was a change to Rule 311 that has draw significant attention and discussion among the UCMJ literati.  Basically, a military judge grants suppression when

“exclusion of the evidence results in appreciable deterrence of future unlawful searches or seizures and the benefits of such deterrence outweigh the costs to the justice system.”

Mil. R. Evid. 311(a)(3) (2016).

The Washington Post has a report today:

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

Can a failure to file a pretrial motion equal ineffective assistance of counsel?  The BLUF is yes in some cases.  In some instances I have argued IAC on appeal for failing to make a meritorious motion.  The NMCCA has issued an interesting opinion in United States v. Spurling, in which they discuss this important issue.  The opinion appears to be an en banc one although not labeled as such – Sr. Judge Ward writes for a majority of five, with three dissenters in an opinion written by Judge King.  The issue of IAC for failure to raise a pretrial motion is neither novel nor rare.  Many of my appellate clients raise a question about why the defense counsel didn’t fil a particular motion.  I am about to file one in a case (citing United States v. Grostefon) where the client complains that the defense counsel did not file a motion to dismiss certain charges.  A more common issue is a motion to suppress, or speedy trial, or UCI.

  1. Spurling claimed IAC because his counsel did not litigate his admissions. Interestingly both counsel admitted they didn’t even catch the issue:  [Counsel] failed to “recognize the issue based on [her] lack of experience, the work load at the time, and never having argued an Article 31 issue[.]”
  2. Capt B concurs, stating that had the issue occurred to him “[he] would have proposed filing it.”

Update 15.9.14.

Here is a link to the government notice of an intent to appeal, and a motion I have filed with the ACCA.

So, client is a medical provider initially accused of committing sexual contact by a, “fraudulent representation that the sexual contact served a professional purpose.”

On occasion I note civilian court opinions that reference or rely on military appellate case law. In my view, because of technology we see more courts, especially federal courts, cite to military appellate case law. In United States v. Buchanan, the accused sought to prevent a guardian ad litem (GAL) from filing motions. The court denied the accused’s motion, and in the process cited to LRM v. Kastenberg, 72 M.J. 364, 358 (C.A.A.F. 2013).

The older the alleged other acts the worse the case for admission of MRE 404(b) matter in my view.

Trial counsel will often seek to admit prior bad acts through MRE 404(b).  The UCMJ does not have rules of evidence in the statute, the rules of evidence are published by the President using his power to make court-martial rules and procedures.  The rules of evidence (current as of 1 Aug. 14) are published in the Manual for Courts-Martial.

As I have routinely cautioned, be alert to and challenge “talismanic incantations” of MRE 404(b) admissibility that merely cites the rule.  You should require the trial counsel to cite which specific exception(s) they rely on, then be precise how the supposed other acts will actually serve to make that or some other critical fact provable.

Result – statements suppressed, and will be in the 9th because of Sessoms v. Runnels, No. 08-17790, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 17206 (9th Cir. 2012)  Wow.  What about Davis v. United States?

Davis doesn’t apply because the ambiguous request came BEFORE the accused was advised of his Miranda rights.  So, why isn’t there a similar situation for an accused who makes an ambiguous request prior to Article 31, UCMJ, warnings.

Nonetheless, a critical factual distinction between Sessoms’s statements and those evaluated by the Court in both Davis and  Berghuis  remains: Sessoms made his statements before he was informed of his rights under  Miranda. The Miranda Court held that the coercive atmosphere of interrogation makes it essential for a suspect to be  “given a full and effective warning of his rights at the outset of the interrogation process.” 384 U.S. at 445.  As the Court stressed, when “the police [have] not advised the defendant of his constitutional privilege . . . at the outset of the interrogation,” the suspect’s  “abdication of [that] constitutional privilege—the choice on his part to speak to the police—[is] not made knowingly or competently because of the failure to apprise him of his rights.” Id. at 465 (citing Escobedo v. Illinois, 378 U.S. 478 (1964)).