As predicted, CAAF made quick work of the question of legal sufficiency in United States v. McClain, No. 12-0099/AR, 71 M.J. 80 (C.A.A.F. Apr. 10, 2012) (CAAFlog case page) (link to slip op.), ruling for the government in a short per curiam opinion published today. The court avoids the technological tall grass, resolving the case in a way that only reinforces the importance of never missing an opportunity to keep your mouth shut when an investigator gives you a rights advisory:

The statement made by McClain on July 16, 2008, and admitted as Prosecution Exhibit 3 was sufficiently corroborated by the other evidence, both direct and circumstantial, for the military judge to admit the statement. McClain did not object at trial to the statement’s admission nor is he now asserting on appeal that the military judge erred by admitting the statement. That statement provides direct evidence that McClain intentionally sought pornography on the Internet using a Limewire software program that he installed on his computer, knowingly downloaded what he thought were videos containing child pornography, and then viewed those videos.

We hold that based on this evidence, including every reasonable inference that can be drawn from the evidence when viewed in the light most favorable to the Government, a rational trier of fact could find the essential elements of the charged offense of possession of child pornography beyond a reasonable doubt.

Slip op. at 4-6.

Unfortunately, the facts of this case prevented an effective inquiry into the apparently commonplace testimonial use of SHA1 values – as opposed to actually viewing the files and testifying about what was seen – in child pornography cases (a practice that is, to my knowledge, still unchallenged in military appellate caselaw).

Case Links:
ACCA’s opinion
Appellant’s brief
Appellee’s (government) brief
Oral argument audio
Blog post: Argument recap
CAAF opinion
Blog post: Opinion analysis

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