Articles Posted in Motions Practice

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)).

The new Mil. R. Evid. may not apply to any offense committed prior to it’s effective date?  Is there an argument that application to an offense prior to the effective date violates the ex-post facto clause.  See Calder v. Bull, 100 U.S. 1 (1798).

Article I, section 9 of the United States Constitution states in relevant part that “[n]o Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed,” and, in its opinion in Calder v. Bull, the Supreme Court recognized four types of laws that cannot be applied retroactively consistent with this Ex Post Facto Clause:

1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender.

I have for some time been challenging the limitation on the defense opportunity to get depositions.

The usual response is that a deposition isn’t for “good cause” because, according to the Discussion under R.C.M. 704, the witness “will be available at trial.”  I argue that R.C.M. 704 and the discussion are not procedure authorized by the President consistent with his Article 36, UCMJ, powers, but are substantive.  If it is substance, then it is beyond the Article 36 power.

Here is an interesting article on the federal rules which may help with my argument, we’ll see.

The Inspector Rutledge detective stories are a favorite of mine.  To quote an Amazon review:

[T]he books are set in the period just after the First World War, and Inspector Rutledge is a veteran of said conflict. Even more unique, he’s haunted by the ghost of one of his subordinates, a corporal whom Rutledge had to shoot and kill after the man panicked and tried to run away during a battle. The dead man doesn’t blame Rutledge for the incident, not exactly anyway, and serves as a sort of alter ego for Rutledge. You’re never entirely certain whether Hamish MacLeod’s ghost is really there, or merely a figment of Rutledge’s imagination, given that he was horribly scarred psychologically by the war.

Hamish talks to the inspector and is often quicker to spot a problem, an inconsistency, or a wrong – “b’ware” he’ll say, or sometimes just “’ware.”