Careful who you speak to and what you say.

I routinely counsel clients not to talk with anyone regarding their case.  Here is a new Navy case which is a reminder.

There is no evidence to suggest the appellant was engaged in plea discussions or negotiations with LtCol C at the time he repeated the advice from his father-in-law. The record reflects the appellant spontaneously mentioned the advice he received from his father-in-law to LtCol C, a friend and mentor. As in United States v. Watkins, 34 M.J. 344, 348 (C.M.A. 992), LtCol C was acting neither as nor on behalf of the CA or the staff judge advocate, nor was he authorized to engage in plea negotiations with the appellant. The statement was voluntarily made and its admission was not an abuse of discretion.

United States v. Toschiaddi, No. NMCCA 200800044, 2009 CCA LEXIS 246, at *5–6 (N-M. C . Ct. Crim. App. 16 July 2009).

This case seems to go against the grain of liberally interpreting Mil. R. Evid. 410 to protect the process.  Also, it ignores some other unusual situations where courts have found the Rule applies, for example the Navy legal officer who was a chief petty officer.  However, based on the facts it seems like a correct resolution.

Regardless, tell the client or potential client not to discuss with anyone at all, and that any “discussions” of a resolution should only come from the defense counsel’s mouth or pen.

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