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.

While doing some research on Wegner’s Ironic Process Theory, I came across this case–Volkmer v. United States, 13 F.2d 594 (6th Cir. 1926).

The other ground presents a more serious question. It is based on the concluding argument of the assistant district attorney, during which the following occurred:

“Assistant District Attorney: A skunk is always a skunk; you can decorate him any way you want to.

USNI news reports


Readers will be aware of the attention given to senior Navy officers who are getting in trouble for misconduct or poor performance.  The collision cases may also be a factor behind the following initiative.

As this case demonstrates, the novelty of an assimilative charging decision under Article 134 often wears off during the course of an appeal,

Says ACCA in a footnote to United States v. Meredith, 7 August 2018.

Specification 1 of Charge II alleged appellant violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 10 U.S.C. § 1030, by obtaining the sex videos from HN SS’s and KS’s computer. We agree with the parties that the evidence for the Article 134 offense assimilating the CFAA, specifically, 18 U.C.S. § 1030(a)(2), was legally and factually insufficient.

From friend BW.

State commission calls blood-spatter testimony in murder case ‘not … scientifically supported’ By Pamela Colloff, ProPublica, July 24, 201

 An influential state commission said the blood-spatter analysis used to convict a former Texas high school principal of murdering his wife in 1985 was “not accurate or scientifically supported” and the expert who testified was “entirely wrong.” The findings of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, a national leader in forensic science reform, called into question the conviction of Joe Bryan, who has now spent more than 30 years in prison. Bryan was the subject of a two-part investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine in May that questioned the accuracy of the bloodstain pattern analysis used to convict Bryan, as well as the training of the experts who testify in such cases.

Navy Times reports the NMCCA decision in United States v. Saugen.  “Ensign Joseph P. Saugen, 26, remains in San Diego’s Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to two specifications of possessing child pornography and another for distributing the illicit videos.”

In Saugen, the Appellant executed a pretrial agreement.  One of the standard terms in that agreement was,

to waive all motions except those that are otherwise nonwaivable pursuant to [RULE FOR COURTS-MARTIAL] 705(c)(1)(B).  I have not been compelled to waive my right to due process, the right to challenge the jurisdiction of the court-martial, the right to a speedy trial, the right to raise the issue of unlawful command influence, or any other motion that cannot be waived.  I have no motions to bring and I am not aware of any motion that was waived pursuant to this provision. [1]

For the past two years, the Defense Security Service (DSS) has been advising security officers to submit periodic reinvestigations for Tier 5 (Top Secret) investigations at the 6 year mark, rather than 5 years. The move was an effort to reduce the growing security clearance backlog, and allow the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) to make initial investigations a priority. Like most directives, however, implementation has created confusion across some offices. Security officers who merely look at the date without the context of the policy directive may have refused access to individuals with out of scope investigations, despite numerous policy memos noting that security clearance eligibility doesn’t expire if the candidate remains in-access.

In a sign the government aims to keep the 6-year PR rather than move back to 5 years, the Pentagon recently issued guidance clarifying that access to Special Access Programs (SAP) may continue even if investigations are past 6 years.

Previously, the personnel requirements for SAP were:

Seems to me that the best practice is to raise any possible UCI claims prior to trial on the merits–depending on when you learn of the alleged UCI.

The general rule is the defense does not waive UCI by failing to raise it at trial. Id. at 193. This rule, however, is not absolute. The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) has distinguished UCI in the accusative phase (e.g., involving the preferral, forwarding, and referral of charges), from UCI in the adjudicative phase (e.g., interference with witnesses, judges, members, and counsel). United States v. Weasler, 43 M.J. 15, 17-18 (C.A.A.F. 1995). In making this distinction, the CAAF concluded claims of UCI during the accusative phase can be waived. Id. at 19 (“Where there is coercion in the preferral process, ‘the charges are treated as unsigned and unsworn,’ but the ‘failure to object’ constitutes waiver of the issue.”). The court has also found waiver of defects in the forwarding process if not challenged at trial. Id. (citing United States v. Hamilton, 41 M.J. 32, 36 (C.M.A. 1994)).

Having concluded referral is part of the accusatorial stage, we examine appellant’s knowledge of the facts at the time and whether appellant was in some way precluded from raising UCI at trial. “If command influence is known, or reasonably could be known in either the accusatorial stage or the selection process, failure to raise the issue constitutes waiver.” See United States v. Upshaw, 49 M.J. 111, 114 (C.A.A.F. 1998) (Crawford, J., concurring) (citing Weasler, 43 M.J. at 17).

In Forrester, our superior court clarified that the unit of prosecution for possessing child pornography is tied to the material containing illicit images, and “not the quantity or variety of visual depictions.” Forrester, 76 M.J. at 481. In Mobley, we held when multiple illicit images or videos are possessed on a single computer, the computer is the “material” constituting the unit of prosecution.  Mobley, slip op. at 5.

We conclude the proper unit of prosecution for both Specification 2 and Specification 3 is the appellant’s laptop computer, regardless of whether the images were found in allocated or unallocated space. Accordingly, we consolidate Specifications 2 and 3 of The Charge in our decretal paragraph.

The military judge correctly noted that several of the images at issue are duplicates. The number of images alleged, however, is irrelevant to the unit of prosecution and is surplus to the specification the government chose to draft. While the number of images is a proper matter in aggravation, it need not be alleged in the specification and may be offered as aggravating evidence through a stipulation of fact, or any otherwise proper form of evidence. For the purposes of alleging the offense of possession of child pornography under Article 134, UCMJ, it suffices to charge that an accused possessed “multiple” images.

Self-assessment.  As a supervisor of counsel, I would ask them to come to me after trial and discuss what they think the three best and worst things they did.  I was intent on mentoring them to reinforce the good and see if, any truly bad issues could be resolved in the future.  Like you, I spend time after trial wondering ‘what if.’  Such ruminations are helpful and necessary.  But . . .

The initial claim of ineffectiveness centered on an email appellant’s civilian defense counsel (CDC) sent his military defense counsel. In the email, the CDC expressed a low opinion of his trial performance, writing, “I screwed up crossing [the victim]. I alone was ineffective. . . .”

We first address the weight we should give the civilian defense counsel’s opinion contained in an email that he was “ineffective.” We give it slight weight for two reasons. First, as the Supreme Court has stated, “After an adverse verdict at trial even the most experienced counsel may find it difficult to resist asking whether a different strategy might have been better, and, in the course of that reflection, to magnify their own responsibility for an unfavorable outcome.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 109 (2011). Second, a counsel’s subjective evaluation is of only marginal relevance in resolving an objective inquiry. Strickland requires an objective inquiry. 466 U.S. at 688.