On June 26, 2017, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 was filed in Rich v. Stackley, Secretary of the Navy, No. 3:17-cv-01298-GPC-JMA. A copy of the petition is available here.
The petitioner was a petty officer in the Navy who, in 2014, was convicted of multiple child sexual offenses and sentenced to confinement for seven years and a dishonorable discharge. The NMCCA affirmed the findings and sentence in 2015 (link to slip op.). CAAF denied review in 2016.
The habeas petition makes three claims. First, it asserts that a court-martial member was dishonest during voir dire, depriving the petitioner of a fair and impartial panel. Second, it asserts that a statement was improperly admitted into evidence under hearsay exceptions. Finally, it asserts that the convictions are factually and legally insufficient. The NMCCA analyzed and disagreed with each of these assertions of error.
Last week the district court ordered a response to the petition. A copy of the order is here. A news headline (here) claims that this order “Overrules Military Court, Reopens Molestation Case,” but that’s totally false. The order is a routine scheduling order under Fed. R. App. P. 21(b)(1). The order also mixes up the parties, naming Stackley as the petitioner.
The petition faces incredibly long odds because the three claims were already considered by the CCA. In Burns v. Wilson the Supreme Court explained that:
The military courts, like the state courts, have the same responsibilities as do the federal courts to protect a person from a violation of his constitutional rights. In military habeas corpus cases, even more than in state habeas corpus cases, it would be in disregard of the statutory scheme if the federal civil courts failed to take account of the prior proceedings — of the fair determinations of the military tribunals after all military remedies have been exhausted. . . . these provisions do mean that, when a military decision has dealt fully and fairly with an allegation raised in that application, it is not open to a federal civil court to grant the writ simply to reevaluate the evidence.
346 U.S. 137, 142 (1953). Put differently, “had the military courts manifestly refused to consider [the] claims, the District Court was empowered to review them de novo.” Id. But “it is the limited function of the civil courts to determine whether the military have given fair consideration to each of these claims.” Id. at 144.
The petition in Rich does not explain why the CCA’s consideration of the issues was either a manifest refusal to consider the claims or not a fair consideration of the claims.