Articles Posted in Trial-Craft(c)

Under Article 62, UCMJ, the prosecution can appeal a military judge’s trial ruling under six circumstances.  The two most common are:

(A) An order or ruling of the military judge which terminates the proceedings with respect to a charge or specification.

For example, a military judge dismisses a specification because the specification fails to state an offense.  That is what happened in United States v. Schloff.  The government appealed, the ACCA decided the appeal in favor of the government, CAAF agreed with the ACCA, and the Supreme Court declined to issue a writ of certiorari.  (We are now in the traditional Article 66, UCMJ, appeal before ACCA on the sole specification for which there was a conviction.)

As you know, Military Rule of Evidence 1102 provides that,

Amendments to the Federal Rules of Evidence – other than Articles III and V – will amend parallel provisions of the Military Rules of Evidence by operation of law 18 months after the effective date of such amendments, unless action to the contrary is taken by the President.

So, here is some relevant activity regarding possible changes to the federal rules of evidence.

A prosecutor’s understanding of their duty.

In exercising their awesome power a prosecutor should “Remember what it means to get it wrong. A criminal goes free. An innocent person is wrongfully punished. The community is less safe. The system has failed in its mission.”

So says a former prosecutor with experience as a defense counsel.

As part of due diligence defense counsel want to know as much about a witness as possible–that’s OK and ethical.  Many of us have found helpful information on social media accounts.

The gist of Formal Opinion 466 is that, within the context of Model Rule 3.5, a lawyer may review a juror’s or potential juror’s various postings on websites and social media. But the lawyer should not send jurors or prospective jurors a request for access, either directly or indirectly, to their social media accounts because doing so would amount to a violation of the prohi-bition in Model Rule 3.5(b) against ex parte communications with jurors that are not authorized by law or court order.

While the above applies to a court-martial member, it’s likely a best practice when researching witnesses in a case.

We caution trial counsel…[as to] how difficult this area of the law can be. There are still issues to be resolved in this arena…. With precedents far from settled, only the bravest of advocacy acrobats ought to tempt fate. (They do so at their own peril, for we guarantee no safety net against reversal).

United States v. Weddle, 61 M.J. 506, 510 (C.G. Ct. Crim. App. 2004), citing United States v. Edwards, 35 M.J. 351 (C.M.A. 1992).

“We thus readily conclude that ex parte communications between a military judge and an SVC are generally proscribed.”

Yes, inexplicably, it was necessary for the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (AFCCA) to decide such an issue, as part of deciding what impact, if any, SVC’s ex parte communications had in a trial–a chilling thought.

In United States v. Turner, (an Air Force case) the SVC decided to have a little confab with the military judge before trial, allegedly about administrative matters–until you read the facts.

John Wesley Hall’s website is an excellent resource for issues involving the Fourth Amendment–FourthAmendment.com.  In pointing to a search warrant case Mr. Hall quotes from the opinion.

We remind McCollum’s counsel that “the statement of facts in an appellate brief should be a concise narrative of the facts stated in accordance with the standard of review appropriate to the judgment and should not be argumentative.” King v. State, 799 N.E.2d 42, 45 n.2 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003) (citing Ind. Appellate Rule 46(A)(6)), trans. denied (2004), cert. denied. Also, we disapprove of counsel’s accusation that the State has “stoop[ed]” to “desperate measures … to attempt to demonstrate the reliability and credibility of the confidential informant” mentioned in the affidavit and has “either played word games with this court or simply fabricated facts in its efforts to make an argument.” Reply Br. at 10, 11. Such hyperbolic barbs have no place in an appellate brief. Cnty. Line Towing, Inc. v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 714 N.E.2d 285, 291 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999), trans. denied (2000).

McCollum v. State, 2016 Ind. App. LEXIS 370 (Sept. 30, 2016).

The Army Court of Criminal Appeals has raised an interesting question and important reminder in United States v. Keen, decided 20 October 2016.  The court itself specified the following issue.

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ACTED AS COUNSEL OR LEGAL OFFICER AS TO ANY OFFENSE CHARGED OR IN APPELLANT’S CASE GENERALLY OR FORWARDED CHARGES IN APPELLANT’S CASE WITH A PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION AS TO DISPOSITION WHEN HE WAS CHIEF OF MILITARY JUSTICE AT III CORPS?

The facts supporting this issue were:

Please don’t do this.

[T]he defense counsels did not respect the judge’s ruling.
[I]n an astounding show of contempt, [they] tried to force the judge to reverse himself by their unilateral withdrawal from the proceedings, on the apparent pretext that they were not prepared.

Recently, in United States v. Marsh, No. 38688 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App, Apr. 19, 2016), the (unnamed and not me or several of my closest friends) civilian defense counsel was held in contempt for late filing of a motion.  It appears this was not the first time in the case for the same counsel of missed deadlines.  The decision drew some angst among the military justice literati.  Based on the facts as written in the opinion, I’m not troubled by the decision.  We must wait a few weeks to see whether the appellant will petition CAAF (will let you know).

Today I’m reading and reviewing a new record of trial (Air Force as well).  It appears the defense filed a significant motion the day before trial.  The prosecution asserted they were not prejudiced by the late filing.  The military judge had this to say.

MJ: Understood. This seems part of a disturbing trend of counsel thinking that the week before trial is the time to begin case preparation. I’ve also heard this in the context of a request for continuance or docketing request that counsel feel the need to, as of right, have a week on site before every case, and I’ll just remind counsel that case preparation is an ongoing endeavor that should begin when the evidence is received, if not beforehand, and I really see no valid excuse for failure to file these motions in a timely manner. That being the case, as I stated, it’s just fraught with appellate peril for me to impose any sanction of any sort, so I find it somewhat amusing that I read comments from defense counsel saying that we don’t do enough to hold trial counsel’s feet to the fire when they violate discovery obligations, but correspondingly, the defense counsel basically has carte blanche, absent me pulling out the extreme contempt gavel, to ignore the scheduling orders of the court. And so it’s with great consternation that I will not impose any sanction at this point. The accused should not be the one who has to suffer for his dilatory counsel.