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Friday, January 10, 2014

Civilian Court-Martial Defense Lawyers: The Death of Fairness in the Military Justice System

Military Defense Lawyer (Former JAG Attorney) News:

As I have described in so many previous blog posts, the military justice system is being turned into the military prosecution, or persecution, system in court-martial cases alleging rape and/or sexual assault (UCMJ Article 120).  Lawmakers and senior government and military officials who care more about an inaccurate politically correct narrative than the fairness of the military justice system are conspiring to make continued changes to the system to ensure commanders and JAGs have no discretion, or at least don't dare to exercise what little discretion they may ultimately retain.  

*Case in point:  The premature retirement of Lt Gen Susan Helms.  Despite an exemplary record of over three decades of military service, which included 5 space shuttle missions, living aboard the International Space Station, holding the record for the longest spacewalk, and being nominated to serve next as the Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command, her career was ended due to her exercising her legal discretionary authority in a military rape/sexual assault court-martial.  She made a decision based on the evidence, her best judgment as a senior military officer, and her personal and professional integrity - and she fell victim to the politics that are dismantling the military criminal justice system.  See:

*Case in point:  The premature retirement of Lt Gen Craig Franklin.  Despite an exemplary record of over three decades of military service, his career was abruptly ended due to him exercising his legal discretionary authority in two military rape/sexual assault court-martial cases.  He made a decision based on the evidence, his best judgment as a senior military officer, and his personal and professional integrity - and he fell victim to the politics that are dismantling the military criminal justice system.  See: 

Now, no military commander or JAG who values his/her career will dare to consider the presumption or possibility of innocence, or the government's (essentially former) burden to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, or the rights of an accused in America to due process, fundamental fairness, and to present a defense in court in any military case dealing with allegations of rape and/or sexual assault.  This is pointed out by Lt Gen Franklin's statement announcing his retirement, and Lt Gen Mueller's (The Air Force IG) statement about the retirement.  See:

As reported by the above-cited story, in announcing his retirement, Lt Gen Franklin stated:

“In the last 10 months as the Commander of Third Air Force and 17th Expeditionary Air Force, my judgment has been questioned publicly regarding my decisions as a general court martial convening authority,” Franklin said in a statement announcing his retirement. “This is a distraction for the Air Force and for my role as a general court martial convening authority.”

In response to the retirement, Lt Gen Mueller reportedly stated:

Lt. Gen. Stephen Mueller said he is “heartbroken” and “bitter” about the retirement of Third Air Force commander Franklin’s decision to retire, and said it could force commanders to pursue sex assault cases regardless of the evidence.  “If commanders believe their only choice can be to prosecute, we are significantly tilting the balance of justice that we all hold so dear.”

What is happening now to the military justice system, Lt Gen Helms and Lt Gen Franklin is the result of a reactionary movement that began after the "rape scandal" at the Air Force Academy in 2003, but has now picked up momentum far outpacing common sense, reason, and the constitution (which, incidentally, military members risk their lives to support and defend).  See:

As a former military JAG officer, as a lawyer, and as an American, what is now happening to the military justice system is stomach turning.  If you don't think innocent military members are being tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison because of the current toxic military justice environment, you are, at best, being naive.  For those politicians blustering about how they would no longer feel comfortable allowing their daughters to join the military (and fall prey to this alleged "epidemic" of sexual assault), I would counter that I would not feel comfortable allowing my son to join a military whose criminal justice system ignores the Constitution, its rights and ideals, when the military is expecting that son to sacrifice, and possibly kill and/or die, to support and defend that same Constitution.  It is a very sad chapter in the history of the military justice system....

For more information about the military justice system, particularly cases alleging rape and/or sexual assault in violation of UCMJ Article 120, type “rape” or “sexual assault” into the search bar above the blog posts.  We also offer free consultations for a case you may be involved in.  Just call us.

Thank you.    

By: Attorney Richard V. Stevens
Civilian criminal defense lawyer and military defense lawyer
Military Defense Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens, P.C.

Blog postscript: Attorney Frank J. Spinner and I (attorney Richard V. Stevens) are former active duty military lawyers (JAG). Our perspectives and advice, therefore, are based upon our experience as military defense lawyers and as civilian criminal defense lawyers practicing exclusively in the area of military law and military justice. This blog addresses issues in military law, military justice, military discipline, military defense, court-martial practice, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and other military and/or legal topics. Nothing posted in this blog should be substituted for legal advice in any particular case. If you seek legal advice for a particular case, please contact The Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens and The Law Office of Frank J. Spinner for a free consultation. These military defense law offices are located in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Northern Florida, but the military defense representation is worldwide – when necessary, the attorneys travel to wherever the client is stationed.

1 comment:

Tyrone Shoes said...

Richard.....your posts should be required reading for every Senator and a Representative. There are, as you say, many innocent men sitting in military prisons today. Had I known that serving your country meant losing your rights as a US citizen, I would never have let my son take the oath. I could not, in good conscience, recommend a career in our military to any young man in today's climate. It is such a shame that it has come to this.