On 10 March 2021, the CAAF granted a petition in U.S. v. Michael P. Whiteeyes on the following issue:
WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE COMMITTED PREJUDICIAL ERROR BY ADMITTING APPELLANT’S STATEMENTS TO LAW ENFORCEMENT IN VIOLATION OF MILITARY RULE OF EVIDENCE 304(c).
The ACCA decision is here.
An enlisted panel convicted the appellant of one specification of sexual abuse of a child but not guilty of one specification of raping a child and one specification of sexually abusing a child. On appeal, the appellant raised several issues, including the admission of evidence after a challenge based on Mil. R. Evid. 304(c).
Appellant challenged various pretrial admissions because there was insufficient independent evidence tending to establish the “trustworthiness of the admission or confession.” In addressing the quantum of proof, the ACCA tells us that,
Our superior court has recently reiterated that under Mil. R. Evid. 304(c)(4), the quantum of independent corroborating evidence, which can be either direct or circumstantial, need only be “slight.” Jones, 78 M.J. at 42 (quoting United States v. Adams, 74 M.J. 137, 140 (C.A.A.F. 2015)). As a panel of this court explained:
“[N]o mathematical formula exists to measure sufficient corroboration.” United States v. Melvin, 26 M.J. 145, 146 (C.M.A. 1988). However, the “inference [ of truthfulness] may be drawn from a quantum of corroborating evidence that [ our Superior Court] has described as ‘very slight.”‘ United States v. Arnold, 61 M.J. 254, 257 (C.A.A.F. 2005) (quoting Melvin, 26 M.J. at 146). The reason for this modest level of corroboration is rooted in the practical purpose for the rule, which is to establish the reliability of the confession so as to prevent convictions based on false confessions. See United States v. Yeoman, 25 M.J. I, 4 (C.M.A. 1987).
United States v. Swift, ARMY 20100196, 2017 CCA LEXIS 580 at *19 (Army Ct. Crim. App. 29 Aug. 2017) (mem. op.).
Finding a “very slight quantum of corroborating evidence,” the ACCA found no abuse of discretion.
Appellant’s Reply Brief before ACCA is here, but neither the opening brief nor the government’s Answer is online.