CAAFlog » CAAF Grants

Yesterday CAAF granted review of an issue involving two lay opinions. Notably, the issue was specified by the court:

No. 16-0487/AR. U.S. v. Mario I. Lopez. CCA 20140943.  On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue specified by the Court:

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ERRED BY ADMITTING THE TESTIMONY OF APPELLANT’S WIFE, MRS. CL, WHO TESTIFIED THAT APPELLANT’S APOLOGY TO HIS STEPSON MEANT THAT APPELLANT WAS “LOOSELY ADMITTING GUILT” TO CRIMINAL CONDUCT, AND BY ALSO ADMITTING THE TESTIMONY OF MS. NM, WHO TESTIFIED THAT APPELLANT “HAD PROBABLY RAPED” HIS WIFE BECAUSE MRS. CL HAD RECENTLY RESEARCHED “SPOUSAL RAPE” ON THE INTERNET.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

I can’t find an opinion on the Army CCA’s website and so assume that the CCA summarily affirmed.

CAAF granted review in three new cases last week:

No. 16-0484/AF. U.S. v. Christopher L. Oliver. CCA 38481. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following re-drafted issue:

WHETHER WRONGFUL SEXUAL CONTACT WAS A LESSER-INCLUDED OFFENSE OF ABUSIVE SEXUAL CONTACT.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The Air Force CCA’s opinion is available here. The CCA did not address (seemingly because the appellant did not raise) the granted issue.

No. 16-0530/AF. U.S. v. Patrick A. Shea. CCA S32225. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issues:

I. WHETHER THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS ERRED ON REMAND WHEN, OVER APPELLANT’S TIMELY OBJECTION, THIS CASE WAS ASSIGNED TO A PANEL THAT DID NOT INCLUDE ALL THREE OF THE JUDGES FROM THE ORIGINAL DECISION.

II. WHETHER A REASONABLE OBSERVER WOULD QUESTION THE IMPARTIALITY OR INDEPENDENCE OF THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS AFTER WITNESSING THE REMOVAL OF JUDGE HECKER FROM THIS CASE ON REMAND FOLLOWING THE GOVERNMENT’S ALLEGATIONS THAT HER IMPARTIALITY HAS BEEN IMPAIRED BY THE DECISION OF THE JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL, WHO IS HIMSELF PART OF THE GOVERNMENT, TO ASSIGN HER TO PERFORM NON-JUDICIAL ADDITIONAL DUTIES WITHIN THE GOVERNMENT.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The Air Force CCA’s opinon is available here but does not address the granted issues.

No. 16-0611/AF. U.S. v. Richard K. Price, Jr. CCA S32330. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ABUSED HIS DISCRETION BY FORCING APPELLANT TO ADMIT TO MISCONDUCT GREATER THAN WAS NECESSARY FOR A PROVIDENT PLEA.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The Air Force CCA’s opinion is available here. The CCA analyzed and rejected the granted issue, concluding: “We find no abuse of discretion by the military judge in this case. The military judge was responsible for ensuring Appellant provided a proper factual basis for his plea. In this light, his questions were appropriate in determining whether Appellant’s use and distribution of various controlled substances on “divers” occasions was provident.” Slip op. at 3.

Earlier this year, in the Marine Corps case of EV v. United States & Martinez, 75 M.J. 331 (C.A.A.F. Jun. 21, 2016) (CAAFlog case page), CAAF determined that it lacks jurisdiction to entertain a writ-appeal by an alleged victim who sought to reverse a military judge’s order for disclosure of portions of her mental health records. Article 6b(e) gives an alleged victim the right to petition a court of criminal appeals for mandamus to enforce various protections, but CAAF determined that the review ends at the CCA.

Subsequently, in  H.V. v. Commander Kitchen, Military Judge, and Randolph, Real Party in Interest, __ M.J. __, Misc. Docket No. 001-16 (C.G. Ct. Crim. App. Jul. 8, 2016) (discussed here), the Coast Guard CCA expanded Mil. R. Evid. 513 (the psychotherapist-patient privilege) to also include the psychotherapist’s conclusions (diagnoses) and resulting treatments. The Coast Guard court’s decision was issued under Article 6b(e), and I noted CAAF’s limited jurisdiction at the time, writing:

Another interesting twist is CAAF’s limited jurisdiction to review this decision. CAAF just recently determined that it does not have jurisdiction over Article 6b petitions. See EV v. United States & Martinez, __ M.J. __ (C.A.A.F. Jun. 21, 2016) (CAAFlog case page). However, the accused could seek a writ himself challenging the military judge’s application of the CCA’s decision, and that writ could even be sought directly from CAAF. See CAAF R. 4(b). Alternatively, the military judge could apply the CCA’s decision, the accused could be convicted, and CAAF could review the decision in the ordinary course of appeal. Cf. United States v. Cote, 72 M.J. 41 (C.A.A.F. 2013) (CAAFlog case page) (CAAF declined an interlocutory challenge to the AFCCA’s reversal of a military judge’s suppression ruling, but then reinstated the suppression ruling on appeal after conviction).

The accused, however, didn’t file an original writ. Rather, he filed a writ-appeal with CAAF (petition discussed here).

Last Friday, CAAF ordered briefs on the question of whether it has jurisdiction to review the accused’s appeal:

No. 16-0678/CG. Thomas J. Randolph, Appellant v. HV., Appellee and United States, Respondent. CCA 001-16. On further consideration of the writ-appeal petition from the decision of the United States Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals rendered pursuant to Article 6b, Uniform Code of Military Justice, it is ordered that the Appellant and Appellee submit briefs on the following specified issue:

WHETHER THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ARMED FORCES HAS JURISDICTION OVER A WRIT-APPEAL PETITION FILED BY AN ACCUSED WHO IS SEEKING REVIEW OF A COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS’ DECISION RENDERED PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 6b(e), UCMJ.

It is further ordered that the United States be substituted for the military judge as a party respondent, that the United States submit a brief on Issue II in the writ-appeal petition and on the issue specified in this Order, that the Appellate Government and Appellate Defense Divisions of the Army, Navy-Marine Corps and Air Force are invited to submit amicus curiae briefs on the issue specified in this Order, that all briefs mentioned in this Order be filed on or before September 30, 2016, and that oral argument will be heard on October 11, 2016, as previously scheduled. Appellant, Appellee, and the United States will each be allotted 20 minutes to present oral argument.

In the Air Force case of United States v. Dalmazzi, No. 16-0651/AF (grant discussed here), CAAF is considering whether a judge of the United States Court of Military Commission Review (appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate) may also serve as an appellate military judge on a court of criminal appeals.

Yesterday CAAF granted review in a trailer case from the Army:

No. 16-0714/AR. U.S. v. Mattie L. Brown. CCA 20140346. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issues:

I. WHETHER ACCEPTANCE OF APPOINTMENT AS A CMCR JUDGE TERMINATED THE MILITARY COMMISSION OF JUDGE CELTNIEKS.

II. WHETHER, AS AN APPOINTED JUDGE OF THE CMCR, JUDGE CELTNIEKS DOES NOT MEET THE UCMJ DEFINITION OF AN APPELLATE MILITARY JUDGE.

III. WHETHER THE ASSIGNMENT OF INFERIOR OFFICERS AND PRINCIPAL OFFICERS TO A SINGLE JUDICIAL TRIBUNAL ITSELF VIOLATES THE APPOINTMENTS CLAUSE.

No briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

In United States v. McClour, No. 16-0455/AF (grant discussed here), and United States v. Taylor, No. 16-0482/AF (grant discussed here), CAAF is reviewing the propriety of the Air Force instruction to members that they must (as opposed to the more-common instruction that members should) find the accused guilty if the prosecution has proven the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Both McClour and Taylor are Air Force cases.

But the problematic instruction has also been used by military judges in the Naval service, and yesterday CAAF granted review of this issue in a Marine Corps case:

No. 16-0565/MC. U.S. v. Dalton C. Nickens. CCA 201500142. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue specified by the Court:

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ERRED WHEN HE INSTRUCTED THE MEMBERS, “IF, BASED ON YOUR CONSIDERATION OF THE EVIDENCE, YOU ARE FIRMLY CONVINCED THAT THE ACCUSED IS GUILTY OF A CHARGED OFFENSE, YOU MUST FIND HIM GUILTY OF THAT OFFENSE,” WHERE SUCH AN INSTRUCTION IS IN VIOLATION OF UNITED STATES v. MARTIN LINEN SUPPLY CO, 430 U.S. 564, 572-73 (1977), AND THERE IS INCONSISTENT APPLICATION BETWEEN THE SERVICES OF THE INSTRUCTIONS RELATING TO WHEN MEMBERS MUST OR SHOULD CONVICT AN ACCUSED.

No briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

In United States v. Bartee, No. 16-0391/MC (grant discussed here), CAAF is revisiting the improper exclusion of members on the basis of rank (which is not one of the Article 25 criteria for member selection) in the wake of last term’s decisions in United States v. Ward, 74 M.J. 225 (C.A.A.F. 2015) (CAAFlog case page), and United States v. Sullivan, 74 M.J. 448 (C.A.A.F. 2015) (CAAFlog case page).

Last week CAAF granted review in another case with an almost identical issue to the one granted in Bartee:

No. 16-0497/MC. U.S. v. Reece N. Tso. CCA 201400379. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following re-drafted issue:

WHETHER, AFTER DISMISSING AN INITIAL COURT-MARTIAL PANEL BECAUSE THE CONVENING AUTHORITY IMPROPERLY EXCLUDED CERTAIN RANKS FROM CONSIDERATION AS COURT MEMBERS, THE MILITARY JUDGE ERRED BY ACCEPTING A PANEL COMPRISED OF THE SAME DETAILED MEMBERS.

No briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The NMCCA’s opinion is available here. The convening authority in Tso was not the same officer (or command) as the convening authority in Bartee.

Last week CAAF granted review – and specifically invited amicus briefs from the appellate divisions – in an Air Force case that questions whether an appellate military judge may sit on both a Court of Criminal Appeals and the United States Court of Military Commission Review:

No. 16-0651/AF. U.S. v. Nicole A. Dalmazzi. CCA 38808. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issues:

I. WHETHER UNITED STATES COURT OF MILITARY COMMISSION REVIEW JUDGE, MARTIN T. MITCHELL, IS STATUTORILY AUTHORIZED TO SIT AS ONE OF THE AIR FORCE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS JUDGES ON THE PANEL THAT DECIDED APPELLANT’S CASE.

II. WHETHER JUDGE MARTIN T. MITCHELL’S SERVICE ON BOTH THE AIR FORCE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS AND THE UNITED STATES COURT OF MILITARY COMMISSION REVIEW VIOLATES THE APPOINTMENTS CLAUSE GIVEN HIS STATUS AS A SUPERIOR OFFICER ON THE UNITED STATES COURT OF MILITARY COMMISSION REVIEW.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The Chiefs of the Appellate Defense and Appellate Government Divisions of the United States Army, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Navy-Marine Corps are invited to file amicus curiae briefs on these issues. These briefs will be filed under Rule 26.

Just two years ago, in United States v. Janssen, 73 M.J. 221 (C.A.A.F. Apr. 15, 2014) (CAAFlog case page), a unanimous CAAF concluded that the appointment of a civilian Air Force employee to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals was invalid. Then, in another unanimous opinion issued last year in United States v. Jones, 74 M.J. 95 (C.A.A.F. Mar. 11, 2015) (CAAFlog case page), CAAF rejected application of the de facto officer doctrine to the appointment.

In United States v. McClour, No. 16-0455/AF (grant discussed here), CAAF is reviewing the propriety of the Air Force instruction to members that commands them that they must (as opposed to the more-common instruction that members should) find the accused guilty if the prosecution has proven the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

Last week CAAF specified the issue in a trailer case:

No. 16-0482/AF. U.S. v. Blake E. Taylor. CCA 38700. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue specified by the Court:

WHETHER THE AFCCA ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO GRANT RELIEF WHERE THE MILITARY JUDGE INSTRUCTED THE MEMBERS, “IF BASED ON YOUR CONSIDERATION OF THE EVIDENCE, YOU ARE FIRMLY CONVINCED THAT THE ACCUSED IS GUILTY OF ANY OFFENSE CHARGED, YOU MUST FIND HIM GUILTY,” WHERE SUCH AN INSTRUCTION IS IN VIOLATION OF UNITED STATES v. MARTIN LINEN SUPPLY CO., 430 U.S. 564, 572-73 (1977), AND THERE IS INCONSISTENT APPLICATION BETWEEN THE SERVICES OF THE INSTRUCTIONS RELATING TO WHEN MEMBERS MUST OR SHOULD CONVICT AN ACCUSED.

No briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

(emphasis added).

Our #5 Military Justice Story of 2013 was the Wilkerson court-martial and its effects. Air Force Lieutenant General Craig Franklin exercised his authority under Article 60(c) to set aside the sexual assault conviction of Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson in 2013, and it was a military justice shot heard round the world. A frenzy of criticism erupted, and Congress ended the year by strictly curbing a convening authority’s previously unfettered ability to reduce the findings or sentence of a court-martial.

Another case involving General Franklin’s exercise of his authority (this time to dismiss a case before trial) resulted in a transfer of the case, defense claims of unlawful command influence, and eventually an acquittal on the merits.

The next chapter in this saga is CAAF’s order from Tuesday granting review:

No. 16-0546/AF. U.S. v. Rodney B. Boyce. CCA 38673. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue specified by the Court:

THE CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE AIR FORCE ADVISED THE CONVENING AUTHORITY THAT, UNLESS HE RETIRED, THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE WOULD FIRE HIM. WAS THE CONVENING AUTHORITY’S SUBSEQUENT REFERRAL OF CHARGES UNLAWFULLY INFLUENCED BY THE THREAT TO HIS POSITION AND CAREER?

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The convening authority? Lieutenant General Franklin.

Read more »

On Wednesday CAAF granted review of an issue involving member disclosures in an Army case:

No. 16-0555/AR. U.S. v. Jason M. Commisso. CCA 20140205. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ABUSED HIS DISCRETION IN DENYING THE DEFENSE’S POST-TRIAL MOTION FOR A MISTRIAL, THEREBY VIOLATING APPELLANT’S RIGHT TO HAVE HIS CASE DECIDED BY A PANEL OF FAIR AND IMPARTIAL MEMBERS, BECAUSE THREE PANEL MEMBERS FAILED TO DISCLOSE THAT THEY HAD PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF THE CASE.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The Army CCA’s opinion is available here but does not mention the issue granted by CAAF.

Paragraph 2-5-12 of the Military Judge’s Benchbook contains Closing Substantive Instructions of Findings to inform members how to decide whether an accused is guilty. Those instructions include:

“Proof beyond a reasonable doubt” means proof to an evidentiary certainty, although not necessarily to an absolute or mathematical certainty. The proof must be such as to exclude not every hypothesis or possibility of innocence, but every fair and rational hypothesis except that of guilt. The rule as to reasonable doubt extends to every element of the offense, although each particular fact advanced by the prosecution which does not amount to an element need not be established beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if on the whole evidence you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the truth of each and every element, then you should find the accused guilty.

(emphasis added).

Last week CAAF granted review of an Air Force case challenging a modified version of this instruction:

No. 16-0455/AF. U.S. v. Trentlee D. McClour. CCA 38704. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER AFCCA ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO GRANT RELIEF WHERE THE MILITARY JUDGE INSTRUCTED THE MEMBERS, “IF BASED ON YOUR CONSIDERATION OF THE EVIDENCE, YOU ARE FIRMLY CONVINCED THAT THE ACCUSED IS GUILTY OF ANY OFFENSE CHARGED, YOU MUST FIND HIM GUILTY,” WHERE SUCH AN INSTRUCTION IS IN VIOLATION OF UNITED STATES v. MARTIN LINEN SUPPLY CO., 430 U.S. 564, 572-73 (1977) AND THERE IS INCONSISTENT APPLICATION BETWEEN THE SERVICES OF THE INSTRUCTIONS RELATING TO WHEN MEMBERS MUST OR SHOULD CONVICT AN ACCUSED.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

(emphasis added).

The AFCCA’s decision is available here.

Note: This is a corrected post. The earlier version discussed a different Williams decision by the Army CCA. Thanks to reader C for pointing out my error.

Last week CAAF granted review in the following case:

No. 16-0416/AR. U.S. v. Gene N. Williams. CCA 20130582. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ABUSED HIS DISCRETION BY GIVING A MILITARY RULE OF EVIDENCE 413 INSTRUCTION TO THE PANEL BECAUSE NO EVIDENCE HAD BEEN ADMITTED BY THE MILITARY JUDGE FOR 413 PURPOSES.

No briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

Mil. R. Evid. 413 is the propensity in sex cases rule addressed in yesterday’s blockbuster decision in United States v. Hills, __ M.J. __ (C.A.A.F. Jun. 27, 2016) (CAAFlog case page).

The Army CCA’s published opinion is available here and I analyzed it in this post. The case involves allegations that the appellant sexually assaulted his ex-wifes, and the prosecution gave notice “of its intent to offer evidence of the offenses against each woman as propensity evidence that appellant committed the charged offenses against the other. That is, the government intended to use evidence that appellant committed each sexual offense against one victim as evidence that appellant committed every other sexual offense against the other victim.” United States v. Williams, __ M.J. __, No. 20130582, slip op. at 2 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 29, 2016). The defense objected and the military judge deferred ruling on the issue.

Later, after both sides rested, the military judge (a different judge from the one who deferred ruling) elected to give the members a propensity instruction.

The Army CCA held that “appellant forfeited any instructional error with regards to M.R.E. 413 by repeatedly failing to object to the military judge’s instructions.” Slip op. at 6. It then found no error in giving the propensity instruction in Williams, but reversed its own precedent regarding the instructions that must be given in such a case because such instructions were unworkable in a case where the charged offenses are also the propensity evidence.

CAAF’s decision in Hills, however, holds that a military judge abuses his discretion when he allows the prosecution to use charged offenses to prove an accused’s propensity to commit the charged offenses, and also that the standard instruction given to members regarding how to handle such propensity undermines the presumption of innocence.

CAAF granted review and ordered briefing in two new cases last week:

No. 16-0423/AR. U.S. v. Joseph R. Haverty. CCA 20130559. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue specified by the Court

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE COMMITTED PLAIN ERROR WHEN HE FAILED TO INSTRUCT THE PANEL ON THE MENS REA REQUIRED FOR AN ARTICLE 92, UCMJ, VIOLATION OF ARMY REGULATION 600-20, WHICH PROHIBITS REQUIRING THE CONSUMPTION OF EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS OF ALCOHOL AS AN INITIATION RITE OF PASSAGE.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The Army CCA’s opinion in Haverty is available here. The granted issue (specified by the court) is similar to the issue in United States v. Gifford, 75 M.J. 140 (C.A.A.F. Mar. 8, 2016) (CAAFlog case page).

No. 16-0424/MC. U.S. v. Mark J. Rosario. CCA 201500251. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN CONDUCTING ITS ARTICLE 66(c), UCMJ, REVIEW BY FINDING AS FACT ALLEGATIONS THAT SUPPORTED CHARGES OF WHICH APPELLANT WAS ACQUITTED TO AFFIRM THE FINDINGS AND SENTENCE.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The NMCCA’s opinion in Rosario is available here. The case involves a conviction of sexual harassment but acquittals of related sexual contact and assault offenses. Affirming the harassment conviction, the CCA noted that “when the same evidence is offered in support of two separately charged offenses, as the physical encounters were here, ‘an acquittal on one [may] not be pleaded as res judicata of the other.'” Slip op. at 4 (quoting Dunn v. United States, 284 U.S. 390, 393 (1932)) (marks in original).

Article 120(b) and 120(d) prohibit committing a sexual act (120(b)) or a sexual contact (120(d)) upon a person who is:

asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware that the sexual [act/contact] is occurring

In United States v. Sager, No. 201400356 (N-M. Ct. Crim. App. Dec. 29, 2015) (link to slip op.), the appellant was convicted of violating Article 120(d) by touching another man’s penis with his hand while the other man was otherwise unaware that the contact was occurring. Specifically, while the appellant was charged with violating the statute in all three possible ways (that the other man was asleep, unconscious, or otherwise unaware when the appellant touched him; an erroneous disjunctive pleading), the members returned a finding of guilty to only a touching when the other man was otherwise unaware. That prompted the appellant to assert on appeal that the specification was unconstitutionally vague because it failed to identify how the other man was otherwise unaware, and that the finding is factually and legally insufficient because the evidence indicated that the other man was either asleep or unconscious (he testified that he awoke from a drunken slumber to the sensation of the appellant touching him).

The Navy-Marine Corps CCA rejected the appellant’s assertions by concluding that:

asleep or unconscious are examples of how an individual may be “otherwise unaware” and are not alternate theories of criminal liability.

Slip op. at 7.

On Tuesday CAAF granted review of two issues that challenge the CCA’s conclusion:

No. 16-0418/NA. U.S. v. Jeffrey D. Sager. CCA 201400356. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issues:

I. IN AFFIRMING THE ABUSIVE SEXUAL CONTACT CONVICTION, THE LOWER COURT RELIED ON FACTS OF WHICH THE MEMBERS ACQUITTED APPELLANT. WAS THIS ERROR?

II. ARTICLE 120(d), UCMJ, PROHIBITS SEXUAL CONTACT ON ANOTHER PERSON WHEN THAT PERSON IS “ASLEEP, UNCONSCIOUS, OR OTHERWISE UNAWARE.” DESPITE THESE SPECIFIC STATUTORY TERMS, THE LOWER COURT HELD THAT “ASLEEP” AND “UNCONSCIOUS” DO NOT ESTABLISH THEORIES OF CRIMINAL LIABILITY, BUT ONLY THE PHRASE “OTHERWISE UNAWARE” ESTABLISHES CRIMINAL LIABILITY. DID THE LOWER COURT ERR IN ITS INTERPRETATION OF ARTICLE 120(d), UCMJ?

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

Congress provided specific criteria for member selection in Article 25(d)(2):

When convening a court-martial, the convening authority shall detail as members thereof such members of the armed forces as, in his opinion, are best qualified for the duty by reason of age, education, training, experience, length of service, and judicial temperament.

Rank is not one of these factors. Last term, in United States v. Ward, 74 M.J. 225 (C.A.A.F. 2015) (CAAFlog case page), and United States v. Sullivan, 74 M.J. 448 (C.A.A.F. 2015) (CAAFlog case page), CAAF found the improper categorical exclusion of members on the basis of rank to be harmless. But with a grant of review on Monday, CAAF will revisit this issue:

No. 16-0391/MC. U.S. v. Emmanuel Q. Bartee. CCA 201500037. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

THE SYSTEMATIC EXCLUSION OF INDIVIDUALS BY RANK FROM THE MEMBER-SELECTION PROCESS IS PROHIBITED. HERE, THE MILITARY JUDGE DISMISSED THE PANEL FOR VIOLATING ARTICLE 25, UCMJ, BUT THE CONVENING AUTHORITY RECONVENED THE EXACT SAME PANEL THE SAME DAY. IS THIS SYSTEMATIC EXCLUSION BASED ON RANK REVERSIBLE ERROR?

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The NMCCA’s opinion is available here and reveals that:

Prior to trial, the defense objected to the exclusion of junior members under convening order #1b-13, which appointed only officer members O-4 and above, enlisted members E-8 and above, and no warrant officers. This panel was detailed after the staff judge advocate (SJA) solicited only these specific categories of senior nominees from subordinate commanders. The SJA provided the CA draft convening order #1b-13 and the applicable questionnaires for consideration. The CA then picked those members as were suggested to him by the SJA without modification. The military judge agreed with the defense’s objection finding that the panel selection process improperly excluded potential members based on rank.

Subsequently, the CA was provided a draft, amended convening order, #1c-13, containing the same members previously detailed under convening order #1b-13. The CA was also furnished with his entire alpha roster of over 8,000 members with instructions that he could substitute any proposed member for someone senior to the accused meeting the Article 25 criteria. After consideration, the CA detailed the same members stating, “I know these individuals personally and selected them specifically because I am convinced they meet the qualifications for membership.”

Slip op. at 5. The military judge found no impropriety in the second convening order and the CCA affirmed.