The Coast Guard Court issued a published opinion today. United States v. McDonald, __ M.J. ___, No. 1294 (C.G. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 24, 2009). The central issue in the case is whether the TC’s sentencing argument included improper comments that rise to the level of plain error. No, ruled CGCCA.
The court held that it was improper for the TC to argue, “His drug use alone and the impact that it has on our service and the unit of CUTTER SHERMAN as a law enforcement cutter deserves a bad conduct discharge.” Because the drug use didn’t produce an adverse impact on the cutter’s law enforcement mission, the TC’s argument “improperly links Appellant’s status as a boarding team member to his marijuana offense.” But while the argument was improper, it was only a small part of the TC’s argument and didn’t constitute plain error, especially in this judge alone case.