The Coast Guard issued a published Melendez-Diaz decision last week (link here). United States v. Byrne, __ M.J. __ (C.G. Ct. Crim. App. Nov. 10, 2011).
The case was decided by the alliterative panel of Chief Judge McClelland, Judge McGuire, and Judge McTague. Judge McGuire wrote for a unanimous panel.
While I disagree with parts of the court’s Melendez-Diaz analysis — suprise, surprise — what struck me the most forcefully about the opinion was the following line: “In his sentencing argument, Trial Defense Counsel requested a bad-conduct discharge to ensure appellate review of the case.” The military has an irrational appellate review system. It lavishes attention on the propriety of many convictions that were the result of a guilty pleas while providing no judicial review for many contested convictions that may have enormous consequences to the accused — including being the basis for administrative separation from the military or a lifetime of sex offender registration. The statement above, which was not further remarked upon, highlights the system’s irrationality. Any justice system in which the defense counsel is arguing for a harsh punishment in order to be allowed to challenge the trial judge’s rulings before a higher court is a bad system.