In the case of United States v. Harris, No. NMCCA 200500452 (N-M. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 15, 2007), PFC Harris was sentenced on 31 August 2004 to confinement for 12 months, total forfeitures, reduction to E-1, and a BCD. He spent 186 days in pretrial confinement. The military judge found that brig personnel improperly monitored Harris’s communications with his counsel and awarded an additional 30 days of pretrial confinement credit. Given these 216 days of credit plus good time, Harris was probably released from confinement sometime around Christmas 2004.

On appeal, NMCCA held that Harris’s rights were further violated because he “was placed under significant maximum custody-type restraints based solely on the seriousness of the charges.” Id., slip op. at 3. To remedy that error, NMCCA ordered that Harris receive an extra 186 days of confinement credit. Uh, but wait a second. As we have seen, Harris was released from confinement almost three years ago. Was that sentence relief meaningful?

CAAF would like to find out. Today’s Daily Journal update included the following granted issue:

WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED BY FAILING TO AWARD APPELLANT ADDITIONAL CONFINEMENT CREDIT OR OTHER MEANINGFUL RELIEF DUE TO THE UNDULY RIGOROUS BRIG CONDITIONS AND THE IMPROPER DENIAL OF NECESSARY MEDICAL CARE.

United States v. Harris, __ M.J. ___, No. 07-0508/MC (C.A.A.F. Sept. 13, 2007).

The issue is somewhat perplexing in that it seems to combine what are really two separate issues: (1) Is Harris entitled to some additional form of meaningful sentence relief where NMCCA sets aside 186 days of confinement that he has already served; and (2) Did NMCCA err in footnote 1 of its opinion where it concluded, “After a detailed review of the record, including all exhibits and pleadings, we conclude that the military judge’s findings, that the appellant was not denied appropriate and necessary medical care and there there was no intent to punish the appellant while in pretrial confinement, are fully supported”?

One Response to “CAAF to consider whether appellate relief must be meaningful”

  1. Phil Cave says:

    This would seem to have been the case where the old myth of “compensatory pay” could be a realistic form of relief. The myth was that a Sailor got paid compensation for extra days served in the Brig beyond their sentence.
    Here, the person has been out so long, and would have already suffered the “civilian” impact of his conviction and sentence, he might welcome a compensation check.
    The USG having to pay money “to criminals” might have more impact than the interesting discussions in appellate cases, likely unread by the Brig staff, etc. The issues come up so frequently, yet there doesn’t seem to be any other method of accountability used or available.