NIMJ’s web site has posted a fascinating ruling by Vice Admiral MacDonald granting a petition for new trial in United States v. House. The decision is available here.
LT House was found guilty of conduct unbecoming for engaging in group sex, conspiracy to make a false statement, and false swearing . But his sentence didn’t qualify his case for automatic appellate review. It was instead reviewed under Article 69, resulting in the reversal of a false swearing conviction but affirmance of the remaining findings of guilty and the sentence.
More than two years after the CA acted, LT House filed a petition for new trial, which was dismissed as untimely. A reconsideration request was rejected on the same ground. The Court of Federal Claims then returned the case to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy for another look. In this ruling, the Navy JAG holds that the two-year deadline for petitions for new trial is subject to equitable tolling. Because the Navy didn’t advise LT House about problems at the USACIL, where evidence in the case was tested and allegedly tied LT House to the rape, in a timely manner, the JAG concludes that applying equitable tolling is appropriate.
Without getting into all of the particulars of the case, at the original trial, evidence was presented that Mr. Mills at USACIL had found LT House’s DNA on a condom that also contained the alleged victim’s DNA. After USACIL learned of problems with Mr. Mills’ work, the condom was retested and LT House was ruled out as a potential source of the DNA evidence. The JAG set aside and dismissed all of the findings of guilty and the sentence.