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Monday, February 03, 2014

Civilian Court-Martial Defense Lawyers: Despite Politicians’ Push, Pentagon Panel Concludes Commanders Should Retain Authority to Decide Whether to Prosecute Military Cases Alleging Rape and Sexual Assault (UCMJ Article 120)

Military Criminal Defense Lawyer (Former JAG Attorney) News:

According to press reports, a subcommittee of a Pentagon panel mandated by Congress has concluded that military commanders should retain their authority to decide whether to prosecute military court-martial cases alleging rape and sexual assault (UCMJ Article 120).  The Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel apparently concluded there was no evidence that stripping military commanders of their authority would reduce actual sexual assaults or increase reporting of sexual assaults.  This conclusion was arrived at after months of meetings, interviews with victims, senators, attorneys, commanders, and more, and reviewing “scores of documents” from the Defense Department and advocacy groups.  The story can be found here:

With the rampant pressures from Congress and government and DoD leadership to arrive at predetermined outcomes in these cases, whether or not commanders make prosecution decisions going forward seems like a largely irrelevant issue.  If a commander dared to make an independent decision not to prosecute a case based on the state of the evidence and that commander’s personal and professional conscience, the case would simply be removed from that commander and that commander’s military career would be over. See, for example, what happened to Lt Gen Helms and Lt Gen Franklin:

If someone alleges rape or sexual assault in the military, the message from “the top” is clear:  They want 100% prosecutions at trial by court-martial, convictions, harsh sentences, and no post-trial clemency.  The possibility of actual innocence is not even considered.  They all just want to put on this show that they are tough on the issue, because that feeds the public relations machine they are so frightened of.  The military justice system has lost its way, and there’s no sign that anyone in a position of real power is willing to step forward and advocate for the return of fairness and the presumption of innocence in this AMERICAN military criminal justice system. 

For other blog posts on this topic, please enter “rape” or “sexual assault” in the search box above.       

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

Blog postscript:  Defense attorney Frank Spinner and defense attorney Richard Stevens are civilian court-martial defense lawyers and former active duty military defense lawyers (JAG).  The perspectives in this blog, therefore, are based on their experience as military defense attorneys and as civilian criminal defense lawyers practicing exclusively in the area of military law.  This blog addresses issues in military law, military justice, military discipline, military trial defense and appellate defense, court-martial defense 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 Military Defense Law Offices of Richard V. Stevens and the Law Office of Frank Spinner for a free initial consultation.  Our military defense law offices are located in Northern Florida (Pensacola, Ft Walton, Destin, Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field, Duke Field areas) and Colorado Springs, Colorado respectively, but our military defense law practices are worldwide – we travel to wherever our clients are stationed or need us.

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