Articles Posted in UCI

When the Congress, the media, and commanders called for a crackdown on military sexual assaults, the fear among the defense bar was the specter of unlawful command influence.  Most of the cases have focussed on pretrial and post-trial.  But the biggest fear was realized in United States v. Schloff, a case I did at trial and on appeal.

“At the beginning of deliberations on findings of appellant’s court-martial, the president and senior ranking member of the panel, [COL JW], made a statement to the effect that based on the political climate, the Army could not seem weak or soft in dealing with sexual harassment or assault. He also asked a question to the effect of, ‘How does the Chief of Staff of the Army’s current emphasis on sexual harassment affect the findings and our decision in this matter?’ [COL AM] made some unspecified but similar comments or comments indicating agreement with [COL JW].

Although we have an independent duty to determine the question of UCI de novo, we concur with the DuBay military judge that actual and apparent UCI occurred and the government failed to establish “beyond a reasonable doubt that UCI . …. was not improperly brought to bear on any member during the findings phase of [appellant’s] court-martial.” As correctly noted by the DuBay military judge “[COL JW] injected policy and career concerns into the deliberations [and h]e did so despite the military judge’s clear guidance that the case be decided solely on the evidence presented in court and the instructions on the law given by the military judge.” The UCI was a “palpable cloud throughout the deliberations” left to permeate in each panel member’s decision-making process. “

The CAAF took the following action last Friday.

No. 16-0309/AR. U.S. v. Michael B. O’Connor. CCA 20130853. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, and in light of the conflicting affidavits between Appellant and his trial defense counsel, we conclude that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred when it failed to order a factfinding hearing pursuant to United States v. DuBay, 17 C.M.A. 147, 37 C.M.R. 411 (1967), to determine the facts surrounding Appellant’s allegations that his trial defense counsel were ineffective in failing to investigate alleged unlawful command influence in the preferral process. SeeUnited States v. Ginn, 47 M.J. 236(C.A.A.F. 1997). Accordingly, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER APPELLANT WAS DENIED EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL AT TRIAL BY HIS COUNSEL FAILING TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGED UNLAWFUL COMMAND INFLUENCE IN THE PREFERRAL PROCESS.

When a judge decides a motion at court-martial they will present the facts they have found, discuss the law, and make their conclusion.  On appeal, when the military judge makes proper findings of fact, the court will accept those facts for the purpose of review unless there is an abuse of discretion and the facts found are “clearly erroneous.”

C.A.A.F. seems to have this definition, among several, of what clearly erroneous means.

At least one court has defined the clearly-erroneous standard by stating that it must be "more than just maybe or probably wrong; it must … strike us as wrong with the force of a five-week-old, unrefrigerated dead fish." Parts and Electric Motors Inc. v. Sterling Electric, Inc., 866 F.2d 228, 233 (7th Cir. 1988).

Family of sailor slain in Newport News seeks court-martial, The Associated Press, October 1, 2009

NEWPORT NEWS

The family of a sailor slain in Newport News is pressing the Navy to court-martial and dishonorably discharge the fellow sailor convicted of killing her.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has already weighed in, telling the Navy last month that the sailor, Darren W. Mackie, 22, should be dishonorably discharged "at the very least," which the Navy hasn’t pursued.