CAAFlog » CAAF Grants

Last week CAAF granted review in this Air Force case:

No. 17-0392/AF. U.S. v. Robert A. Condon. CCA 38765. 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 raised by appellate defense counsel:

UPON REQUEST BY THE DEFENSE COUNSEL AND UTILIZING A DEFENSE PROPOSED INSTRUCTION, SHOULD THE MILITARY JUDGE HAVE PROVIDED THE MEMBERS WITH AN EXPLANATION OF THE TERM “INCAPABLE”?

And the following issue specified by the Court:

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ERRED IN ADMITTING APPELLANT’S INVOCATION OF HIS RIGHT TO COUNSEL IN HIS AFOSI INTERVIEW AT TRIAL OVER DEFENSE OBJECTION, AND IF SO, WHETHER THAT ERROR WAS HARMLESS BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The CCA’s opinion is available here. The appellant raised a whopping 21 assignments of error, including 15 personally-asserted pursuant to United States v. Grostefon, 12 M.J. 431 (C.M.A. 1982), and the CCA’s opinion is a hefty 40 pages long with a six-page partial dissent. The CCA doesn’t mention the issue specified by CAAF, but it does address the granted issue explaining:

Read more »

Back in March the Air Force CCA granted a Government appeal under Article 62 in United States v. Pugh, No. 2016-11 (Mar. 10, 2017) (link to slip op.). The case involves an Air Force major who was convicted of:

willful dereliction of duty in violation of Article 92, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 892, by consuming Strong and Kind bars, a product containing hemp seeds, which is prohibited by AFI 90-507.

Slip op. at 2. AFI 90-507 (available here) (link corrected) is the Military Drug Demand Reduction Program order. It prohibits, among other things, consumption of any product containing hemp seed or hemp seed oil.

Defense counsel moved to dismiss after findings, arguing that the specification failed to state an offense and that the order was unlawful. The military judge reserved ruling. The members then sentenced the Major to a dismissal and the court-martial was adjourned. Nineteen days later:

the military judge granted the defense motion to dismiss the Additional Charge and its Specification. In so doing, he issued a six-page ruling. The military judge concluded that the specification did allege an offense and gave fair notice to Appellee. However, the military judge then held that “there is not a sufficient nexus between military necessity and the duty AFI 90-507 seeks to impose. The regulation is overly broad and serves no valid military purpose.” The military judge then dismissed the Additional Charge and its Specification.

Slip op. at 2-3. The military judge had the power to do this because the record had not yet been authenticated. See R.C.M. 905(f).

The prosecution appealed and the Air Force CCA reversed, concluding:

As the military judge found, as fact, that it was possible that a “false positive” could result from manufacturing process defects, purchase of hemp products overseas, or purchase of hemp products over the Internet, it was error for the military judge to conclude that there was an insufficient nexus between the military duty and the integrity and effectiveness of the drug testing program. Military jurisprudence has long recognized the “disastrous effects” of illicit drug use by members of the armed forces. Similarly, the critical nature of the drug testing program in the “military’s efforts to ferret out drug abuse and thereby insure [sic] the health and readiness of its members” as well as deter drug abuse is also well-established.

Slip op. at 6 (citations omitted) (marks in original) (emphasis added).

Yesterday CAAF granted review:

No. 17-0306/AF. U.S. v. Joseph A. Pugh. CCA 2016-11. 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 the petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ERRED IN FINDING THAT AFI 90-507 SERVES NO VALID MILITARY PURPOSE AND DISMISSING THE ADDITIONAL CHARGE AND ITS SPECIFICATION.

Although ordinarily an appeal pursuant to Article 62, Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. § 862 (2012), does not require additional pleadings, because the granted issue differs from the assigned issue, additional briefing is necessary. See CAAF Rules 19(a)(7)(A) and 25. Accordingly, Appellant’s brief on this issue shall be filed within 20 days of the date of this order. Appellee’s brief shall be filed within 20 days of the filing of Appellant’s brief. A reply may be filed by Appellant within 5 days of Appellee’s brief. Absence extraordinary circumstances, extensions of time to file the briefs will not be granted.

Yesterday CAAF granted review of an oddly-worded issue involving Mil. R. Evid. 412 – the military’s rape shield rule:

No. 17-0476/AF. U.S. v. David C. Carpenter II. CCA 38995. 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 THE AIR FORCE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS ERRED IN LIMITING THE CROSS-EXAMINATION OF THE COMPLAINING WITNESS UNDER MILITARY RULE OF EVIDENCE 412 ON AN ISSUE SHOWING THAT APPELLANT’S SUBJECTIVE MISTAKE OF FACT AS TO THE COMPLAINING WITNESS’S AGE WAS OBJECTIVELY REASONABLE.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The CCA’s opinion is available here and reveals that the appellant was convicted of sexual assault of a child in violation of Article 120b(b) for a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old boy. The appellant’s defense was that he mistakenly believed the boy was 16. To prove this mistaken belief the defense sought to cross-examine the boy about the boy’s internet posts soliciting sexual encounters in which he claimed he was 18, 19, and 20 years old. But those posts were made after the encounter with the appellant. The defense also sought to introduce evidence about other men with whom the boy had sexual encounters, and also evidence that the boy was “adept at conceling his age.” Slip op. at 5. But the military judge found the evidence was not relevant in part because:

the relevant inquiry with regard to whether Appellant’s belief about JM’s age was objectively reasonable is based on the facts known to Appellant at the time of the conduct.

Slip op. at 5. The CCA concluded that:

We agree with the military judge that the proffered evidence was irrelevant to the mistake-of-fact defense. The military judge therefore did not abuse his discretion by excluding it.

Slip op. at 6.

Considering this, it’s strange that the granted issue challenges both the CCA’s limitation of cross-examination (when it was the judge) and the invocation of Mil. R. Evid. 412 (when the real issue seems to be relevance).

Another 412 issue on CAAF’s docket for next term is the constitutionally-required exception to the rule, which will be considered in United States v. Robinson, No. 17-0231/AR (grant discussed here).

Earlier this month CAAF granted review of two search and seizure issues in the Air Force case of United States v. Eppes:

No. 17-0364/AF. U.S. v. Tyler G. Eppes. CCA 38881. 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 SEARCH OF APPELLANT’S PERSONAL BAGS EXCEEDED THE SCOPE OF THE SEARCH AUTHORIZATION WHERE THE AGENT REQUESTED AUTHORITY TO SEARCH APPELLANT’S PERSON, PERSONAL BAGS, AND AUTOMOBILE, BUT THE MILITARY MAGISTRATE AUTHORIZED ONLY THE SEARCH OF APPELLANT’S PERSON AND AUTOMOBILE AND DID NOT AUTHORIZE THE SEARCH OF APPELLANT’S PERSONAL BAGS.

II. WHETHER APPELLANT’S RIGHT TO FREEDOM FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCH AND SEIZURE UNDER THE FOURTH AMENDMENT WAS VIOLATED WHEN THERE WAS NO PROBABLE CAUSE FOR THE 7 DECEMBER 2012 WARRANT.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The Air Force CCA’s opinion is available here. The appellant is an Air Force Captain who was convicted of various offenses primarily involving travel claim fraud. The CCA considered the granted issues and concluded that the good faith exception permitted the search of the bag (Issue I), and that the civilian judge’s probable cause determination is supported by the evidence of appellant’s abuse of his official position (Issue II).

CAAF also denied two notable petitions.

First, CAAF denied further review of the Air Force CCA’s opinion that granted a Government Article 62 appeal in United States v. Lutcza, __ M.J. __, No. 2016-13 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 18, 2017) (link to slip op.).

Lutcza consented to a search of his cell phone but later revoked that consent. Before the revocation, however, investigators made a copy of the phone’s data. The copy was searched after revocation of consent, revealing incriminating evidence. But the military judge suppressed the evidence, finding that the accused retained a reasonable expectation of privacy in the copy of the data and relying in part on United States v. Dease, 71 M.J. 116 (C.A.A.F. May 1, 2012) (CAAFlog case page) (reasonable expectation of privacy in voluntarily-produced urine sample). The CCA reversed, concluding:

Unlike Dease, where the search (i.e., the urinalysis) was performed after consent was withdrawn, in Appellee’s case the search (i.e., the extraction of data using the UFED Touch) occurred during the period of consent—indeed, with Appellee’s participation. SA BS’s later review of the copied information previously obtained was not a search for Fourth Amendment purposes because, unlike the cell phone itself, the copy of the data always belonged to AFOSI, not Appellee, and Appellee had no reasonable expectation of privacy in it.

Lutcza, __ M.J. at __, slip op. at 7-8. The CCA’s opinion doesn’t distinguish between the seizure and the search of the cell phone data (making the copy was likely merely a seizure, with the actual search occurring later), and it bases its ultimate conclusion on numerous civilian cases (see slip op. at 5-6). But Mil. R. Evid. 314(e)(3) – which permits withdrawal of consent to a search at any time and which was the basis of CAAF’s holding in Dease – is a military-specific rule that would likely apply if the making of a copy of the data was merely a seizure and not an actual search. CAAF, however, won’t answer that question now.

Finally, on June 22, CAAF denied review of an Air Force Appellate Government Division petition for reconsideration of the court’s opinion that found an appearance of unlawful command influence and reversed the convictions in United States v. Boyce, 76 M.J. 242 (C.A.A.F. May 22, 2017) (CAAFlog case page):

No. 16-0546/AF. U.S. v. Rodney B. Boyce. CCA 38673. On consideration of Appellee’s petition for reconsideration of this Court’s decision, 76 M.J. 242 C.A.A.F. 2017), and the motion filed by Protect Our Defenders to file an amicuscurie brief out of time in support of Appellee’s petition for reconsideration, it is ordered that said motion filed by Protect Our Defenders to file an amicus curiae brief out of time is hereby denied, and said petition for reconsideration is hereby denied.

Considering that CAAF was unanimously and obviously troubled by the pressure exerted on Lieutenant General Franklin as he performed his duties as convening authority in Boyce (though it was deeply divided on the remedy under the facts of this case) it’s hard to know who exactly Protect Our Defenders was trying to defend with its support of the Appellate Government Division’s petition for reconsideration.

In this post I noted a May 12, 2017, news report about the case of Senior Chief Barry, U.S. Navy, who was convicted of one specification of sexual assault in violation of Article 120, and sentenced to confinement for three years and a dishonorable discharge. Mike posted a follow-up here.

The convening authority – Rear Admiral Patrick J. Lorge (now retired) – approved the findings and sentence, and the NMCCA affirmed in an opinion available here. CAAF summarily affirmed on April 27, 2017.

After CAAF acted, the Admiral signed an affidavit alleging that he wanted to disapprove the finding of guilty but the then-Judge Advocate General of the Navy and her deputy (the current JAG) persuaded him not to exonerate the sailor because it would be bad public relations for the Navy and hurt Lorge’s career.

Yesterday – in an order available here – CAAF vacated its decision and ordered a factfinding hearing:

That the petition for reconsideration is granted; this Court’s order of April 27, 2017, is vacated; and the petition for grant of review is granted on the following issue:

WHETHER SENIOR CIVILIAN AND MILITARY LEADERS EXERTED UNLAWFUL COMMAND INFLUENCE ON THE CONVENING AUTHORITY.

In addition, the motion to appoint a special master is denied; the motions to supplement the record are granted; the motion for oral argument is denied; and the motion to remand for new post-trial processing is denied.

The record of trial is returned to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy for remand to a convening authority other than the one who convened the court-martial concerned and one who is at a higher echelon of command. This convening authority shall order a factfinding hearing pursuant to DuBay. The presiding officer at this hearing shall be a military judge from an armed force other than the United States Navy or United States Marine Corps. See Rule for Court-Martial 503(b)(3). This military judge shall inquire fully and make findings of fact and conclusions of law related to the alleged unlawful command influence matter underlying the granted issue. At the conclusion of the DuBay hearing, the military judge will return the record directly to this Court for further review of the granted issue under Article 67, Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. § 867 (2012).

One noteworthy part of CAAF’s order is that it does not permit disapproval of the conviction now if the DuBay were deemed impracticable. Absent such authorization, the conviction will stand unless CAAF finds a reason to reverse it. And the Admiral will testify if called (or face potentially-severe consequences), as he is still subject to the UCMJ.

Last year, before CAAF’s blockbuster decision in United States v. Hills, 75 M.J. 350 (C.A.A.F. Jun. 27, 2016) (CAAFlog case page) (our #3 Military Justice Story of 2016), the Army CCA decided United States v. Williams, 75 M.J. 621 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 29, 2016) (discussed here).

In Williams the CCA overruled its own 2006 published decision that required certain instructions when propensity evidence was admitted under Mil. R. Evid. 413/414. Those mandatory instructions were problematic in cases where charged offenses were used for propensity purposes (the practice CAAF later prohibited in Hills). The CCA abandoned the instructions in Williams, but did not mandate any particular replacement.

CAAF then granted review in Williams (discussed here) and summarily reversed (discussed here) in light of Hills.

The CCA affirmed the case again, and now it’s headed back to CAAF.

Read more »

Last week CAAF granted review of an interesting pair of issues in an Air Force case with an odd factual background:

No. 17-0347/AF. U.S. v. Robert L. Honea III. CCA 38905. 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. IMMEDIATELY BEFORE THE DEFENSE RESTED ITS CASE, THE MILITARY JUDGE INVITED THE PARTIES’ ATTENTION TO R.C.M. 910, AND DIRECTED THE DEFENSE TO PROVIDE THE MILITARY JUDGE WITH A DRAFT SPECIFICATION OF ASSAULT CONSUMMATED BY A BATTERY. DID THE LOWER COURT ERR WHEN IT HELD THAT THE DEFENSE’S COMPLIANCE WITH THE MILITARY JUDGE’S DIRECTIVE CONSTITUTED A DE FACTO DEFENSE REQUEST TO MODIFY THE SPECIFICATION PURSUANT TO R.C.M.603 WHERE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT EITHER THE DEFENSE OR THE CONVENING AUTHORITY WERE AWARE THE CHARGE WAS BEING AMENDED PURSUANT TO R.C.M. 603?

II. THE MILITARY JUDGE DISMISSED SPECIFICATION 2 OF CHARGE II, ABUSIVE SEXUAL CONTACT BY CAUSING BODILY HARM, FOR FAILURE TO STATE AN OFFENSE, BUT SHE ALLOWED THE GOVERNMENT TO PROCEED TO TRIAL ON THE PURPORTED LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSE OF ASSAULT CONSUMMATED BY A BATTERY. DID THE MILITARY JUDGE ERR?

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

Read more »

Military Rule of Evidence 514 is the Victim Advocate-Victim privilege. It protects:

a confidential communication made between the alleged victim and a victim advocate or between the alleged victim and Department of Defense Safe Helpline staff, in a case arising under the UCMJ, if such communication was made for the purpose of facilitating advice or assistance to the alleged victim.

Mil. R. Evid. 514(a). I discussed the rule in this 2012 post, where I wondered if it really exists (considering its irregular promulgation).

But what happens when the accused asserts the privilege? Last week CAAF granted review in a Coast Guard case that raises that question:

Read more »

On Friday CAAF granted review in a Coast Guard case, specifying two issues for review:

No. 17-0208/CG. U.S. v. John C. Riesbeck. CCA 1374. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issues specified by the Court:

I. WHETHER THE MEMBERS OF APPELLANT’S COURT-MARTIAL PANEL WERE PROPERLY SELECTED.

II. WHETHER APPELLANT WAS DEPRIVED OF A FAIR TRIAL, OR THE APPEARANCE OF A FAIR TRIAL, WHERE A MAJORITY OF THE PANEL MEMBERS WERE FORMER VICTIM ADVOCATES AND THE MILITARY JUDGE DENIED A CHALLENGE FOR CAUSE AGAINST ONE OF THEM.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

We first discussed this case here, when Sam reviewed the Coast Guard CCA’s 2014 decision that found that civilian defense counsel waived the issue of improper panel selection by failing to make a timely objection. But CAAF reversed and remanded for further review (noted here). The CCA then heard oral argument (noted here) and issued a new decision (available here) affirming the findings and sentence.

At the heart of the case is the fact that the appellant was convicted of rape – arising from an encounter during a September 2010 port call in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – by a panel composed of six women and two men. Of those, five of the women had training as a victim advocate or had assisted women who had complained of sexual assault. Nevertheless, in it’s most recent opinion the CCA concluded that “Appellant has failed to produce sufficient evidence to raise the issue of court stacking.” Slip op. at 9.

Update: While I initially noted five grants of review, I only wrote about four. I eventually realized that I failed in counting to five and now update this post to include the fifth grant (in Bailey).

Some interesting cases recently joined CAAF’s docket, with a certification and five grants of review.

Read more »

On Tuesday CAAF granted review in the following Army case:

No. 17-0231/AR. U.S. v. Torrence A. Robinson. CCA 20140785. 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 raised by Appellant:

I. WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ERRED BY FAILING TO ADMIT CONSTITUTIONALLY REQUIRED EVIDENCE UNDER MILITARY RULE OF EVIDENCE 412(b)(1)(C).

II. WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE COMMITTED PLAIN ERROR WHEN HE FAILED TO INSTRUCT THE PANEL ON THE MENS REA REQUIRED FOR THE SPECIFICATION OF CHARGE I, WHICH INVOLVED AN ARTICLE 92, UCMJ, VIOLATION OF ARMY REGULATION 600-20.

And the following issue specified by the Court:

III. WHETHER THE EVIDENCE WAS LEGALLY SUFFICIENT TO ESTABLISH THAT APPELLANT KNEW OR REASONABLY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT SPC VM WAS TOO INTOXICATED TO CONSENT TO A SEXUAL ACT.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

I don’t see an opinion on the Army CCA’s website (meaning the case was summarily affirmed).

Mil. R. Evid. 412 is the military’s rape shield rule, and it prohibits admission of evidence “offered to prove that any alleged victim engaged in other sexual behavior” (Mil. R. Evid. 412(a)(1)) and evidence “offered to prove any alleged victim’s sexual predisposition” (Mil. R. Evid. 412(a)(2)). The rule does, however, contain exceptions, including for:

[E]vidence the exclusion of which would violate the constitutional rights of the accused.

Mil. R. Evid. 412(b)(1)(C). This exception is the one at issue in this case and it is notable for three reasons. First, there isn’t a bright-line where exclusion of evidence violates an accused’s constitutional rights. Second, the exception is still actually in the rule (while a similar exception in Mil. R. Evid. 513 was ordered removed by Congress in the FY15 NDAA and then was removed by Executive Order 13696). Finally, the exception conflicts with the rule’s procedural requirements in a way that CAAF found constitutionally-problematic in United States v. Gaddis, 70 M.J. 248 (C.A.A.F. 2011), but has not been fixed.

CAAF also docketed a writ-appeal in a Navy-Marine Corps case (no opinion is available on the CCA’s website):

No. 17-0315/AF [sic]. Jeremy E. Hassett v. United States. CCA 201600118. Notice is hereby given that a writ-appeal petition for review of the decision of the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals on application for extraordinary relief was filed under Rule 27(b) on this date.

CAAF granted review in three cases last week. All are from the Army:

No. 17-0187/AR. U.S. v. Brian G. Short. CCA 20150320. 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 GOVERNMENT COUNSEL COMMITTED PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT WHEN THEY MADE IMPROPER ARGUMENT AFTER REPEATEDLY ELICITING INADMISSIBLE TESTIMONY.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The CCA’s opinion in Short is available here.

No. 17-0200/AR. U.S. v. Carlos A. Gonzalez-Gomez. CCA 20121100. 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 DILATORY POST-TRIAL PROCESSING VIOLATED APPELLANT’S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS AND WARRANTS RELIEF WHEN 782 DAYS ELAPSED BETWEEN DOCKETING AT THE ARMY COURT AND OPINION.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The CCA’s opinion in Gonzalez-Gomez is available here.

No. 17-0203/AR. U.S. v. David L. Jerkins. CCA 20140071. 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 HER DISCRETION BY ALLOWING A GENERAL OFFICER MEMORANDUM OF REPRIMAND INTO SENTENCING EVIDENCE WHERE THE REPRIMAND WAS ISSUED TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE COURT-MARTIAL AND CONTAINED HIGHLY PREJUDICIAL AND MISLEADING LANGUAGE.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The CCA’s opinion in Jerkins is available here.

CAAF also docketed a petition for a writ of prohibition in United States v. Katso (CAAFlog case page):

No. 17-0310/AF. Joshua Katso, Petitioner v. Christopher F. Burne, Lieutenant General, United States Air Force, in his official capacity as Judge Advocate General of the United States, and Katherine E. Oler, Colonel, United States Air Force, in her official capacity as Chief of the United States Air Force Government Trial and Appellate Counsel Division. CCA 38005. Notice is hereby given that a petition for extraordinary relief in the nature of a petition for writ of prohibition was filed under Rule 27(a) on this date.

Finally, CAAF docketed a writ petition in Bergdahl. As the seventh such petition by an increasingly desperate Bergdahl (whose trial is expected to occur this summer), its filing is just barely noteworthy.

In this post I analyzed the Army CCA’s decision in United States v. Guardado, 75 M.J. 889 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Nov. 15, 2016). The CCA dissected CAAF’s opinion in United States v. Hills, 75 M.J. 350 (C.A.A.F. Jun. 27, 2016) (CAAFlog case page), and identified five factors to consider when determining if an appellant was prejudiced by the improper use of charged offenses for propensity purposes under Mil. R. Evid. 413 (and, presumably, 414):

First, we note the CAAF has previously found instructions that included propensity stemming from charged offenses to be harmless error. Schroder, 65 M.J. at 56-57. As discussed above, while the CAAF found the instruction to be error, the court found it harmless.

Second, we believe the intertwined nature of the conduct in Hills was central to the court’s assessment of prejudice. . . .

Third, when we look at a specification-by-specification analysis, we are unable to find prejudice to appellant when he was convicted of only one offense. . . . when the panel acquitted appellant of the three other specifications of sexual assault, any violation of the presumption of innocence as to those specifications resulted in no prejudice. . . .

Fourth, we are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that even if no propensity instruction had been given, the results in this trial would have been the same. . . .

Finally, but least importantly, we find, to the extent that the military judge’s instructions were confusing, any confusion in this case was harmless. . . .

75 M.J. at 897-898 (emphasis in original).

On March 3 CAAF granted review:

No. 17-0183/AR. U.S. v. Alan S. Guardado. CCA 20140014. 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 THE ARMY COURT INCORRECTLY FOUND THAT THE MILITARY JUDGE’S PANEL INSTRUCTIONS WERE HARMLESS ERROR IN LIGHT OF UNITED STATES v. HILLS.

II. WHETHER THE ARMY COURT INCORRECTLY RULED THAT AN OFFENSE DEFINED BY THE PRESIDENT CANNOT PREEMPT A GENERAL ARTICLE 134, UCMJ, OFFENSE, AND THAT PREEMPTION IS NOT JURISDICTIONAL IN SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25 on Issue I only.

CAAF granted review in two cases yesterday. The first grant is in a case that was certified by the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force back in November (discussed here):

No. 17-0086/AF. United States, Appellant/Cross-Appellee v. Patrick Carter, Appellee/Cross-Appellant. CCA 38708. 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. THE AIR FORCE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS DISMISSED THE CHARGE AND SPECIFICATIONS IN THIS CASE IN 2013 AND AGAIN IN 2016. BUT IT EXCEEDED THE EIGHTEEN-MONTH PRESUMPTION OF UNREASONABLE DELAY BEFORE DOING SO EACH TIME. HAS APPELLEE BEEN DENIED DUE PROCESS WHERE HE COMPLETED HIS SENTENCE TO THREE YEARS OF CONFINEMENT 158 DAYS BEFORE THIS COURT AFFIRMED THE LOWER COURT’S FIRST DISMISSAL OF THIS CASE ON AUGUST 2, 2013?

II. WHETHER APPELLEE’S PROSECUTION FOR CHILD ENDANGERMENT WAS BARRED BY THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS WHERE MORE THAN FIVE YEARS HAD ELAPSED AND APPELLEE WAS NOT BROUGHT TO TRIAL WITHIN 180 DAYS OF THIS COURT’S AFFIRMANCE OF THE LOWER COURT’S DISMISSAL OF THAT SPECIFICATION.

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

IV. 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 VIOLATED THE APPOINTMENTS CLAUSE GIVEN HIS STATUS AS A PRINCIPAL OFFICER ON THE UNITED STATES COURT OF MILITARY COMMISSION REVIEW.

V. WHETHER JUDGE MARTIN T. MITCHELL WAS IN FACT A PRINCIPAL OFFICER FOLLOWING HIS APPOINTMENT BY THE PRESIDENT TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF MILITARY COMMISSION REVIEW IN LIGHT OF THE PROVISIONS OF 10 U.S.C. § 949b(b)(4)(C) AND (D), AUTHORIZING REASSIGNMENT OR WITHDRAWAL OF APPPELLATEMILITARY JUDGES SO APPOINTED BY THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE OF HIS DESIGNEE.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25 on Issues I and II only.

The second involves a specified issue in a Coast Guard case:

No. 17-0143/CG. U.S. v. Ernest M. Ramos. CCA 1418. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue specified by the Court:

WHETHER APPELLANT WAS ENTITLED TO ARTICLE 31(b), UCMJ, WARNINGS AT ANY POINT DURING HIS INTERROGATION BY CGIS, AND IF SO, WHETHER HE WAS PREJUDICED BY THE ADMISSION OF ANY OF HIS STATEMENTS.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The Coast Guard CCA’s opinion is available here and reveals that:

On the morning of 8 April 2014, Appellant, stationed in Seattle, Washington, reported to his division officer that a civilian with whom his wife had a business had made threats against Appellant and his wife and had said he knew where Appellant worked. Appellant mentioned that the business involved recreational marijuana, but that his name was not on the paperwork of the business. Appellant’s division officer called upon his superior, the operations officer, to whom Appellant repeated his story. The operations officer called upon his superior, the executive officer, to whom Appellant repeated his story in the presence of the operations officer.

The executive officer took steps to notify security officials of the threat, including calling Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS). CGIS requested to talk with Appellant. Thereafter, Appellant was interviewed by CGIS agents, to whom he repeated his story with further details.

The military judge concluded, and the CCA affirmed, that the appellant’s interrogation by CGIS was not for a law enforcement or disciplinary purpose.

Last week CAAF granted review in the following Air Force case:

No. 17-0148/AF. U.S. v. Stephan H. Claxton. CCA 38188. 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 FINDINGS AND SENTENCE MUST BE SET ASIDE IN LIGHT OF UNITED STATES v. HILLS, 75 M.J. 350 (C.A.A.F. 2016).

II. WHETHER THE GOVERNMENT’S FAILURE TO DISCLOSE THAT AIR FORCE ACADEMY CADET E.T. WAS A CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT FOR THE AIR FORCE OFFICE OF SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS (AFOSI) PURSUANT TO BRADY v. MARYLAND, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), WAS HARMLESS BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

We last noted this case (in the context of Issue II) in this post.

The AFCCA’s opinion is available here. The CCA found that the failure to disclose the cadet’s status as a confidential informant was a discovery violation:

We find that Appellant’s defense counsel should have been informed that former Cadet Thomas was an informant and should have received some portions of former Cadet Thomas’ AFOSI dossier in discovery . . . This information revealed by former Cadet Thomas about his work as an informant would have provided substantial ammunition for the Defense to use in their efforts to impeach him and undercut his credibility.

Slip op. at 10. The CCA concluded, however, that it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because “there is no reasonable possibility that the disclosure error contributed to the contested findings of guilty.” Slip op. at 12.

On the Hills issue the CCA concluded that the improper use of the charged offenses for propensity purposes was also harmless beyond a reasonable doubt based on the strength of the other evidence:

we find any error surrounding the admission of propensity evidence in this case to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as it applies to the charged offenses involving both Cadet MI and Ms. SW. Unlike the Hills case, where the evidence was weak and there was no eyewitness testimony, the evidence supporting the charges of which Appellant was convicted was extremely strong. The testimony of Cadet MI and Ms. SW was strong, consistent over time, and corroborated by a number of other witnesses, as addressed earlier. And perhaps most harmful of all were Appellant’s own admissions. Conversely, the evidence regarding the charges involving Ms. KA was weak. The fact that Appellant was acquitted of the charges involving Ms. KA further undercuts the idea that the instruction may have contributed to the findings of guilty.

Slip op. at 20-21.