CAAF will hear the first oral argument of the 2017 term on Tuesday, October 10, 2017, at 9:30 a.m., in the certified Army case of United States v. Jacobsen, No. 17-0408/AR (CAAFlog case page). A single issue challenges the Army CCA’s rejection of an interlocutory prosecution appeal under Article 62, UCMJ:
Whether the trial counsel’s certification that evidence is “substantial proof of a fact material in the proceeding” is conclusive for purposes of establishing appellate jurisdiction under Article 62(a)(1)(b), Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The case is a general court-martial involving an alleged sexual offense. Sergeant First Class (E-7) Jacobsen is the accused, and his defense includes a focus on the alleged victim’s lack of credibility. Jacobsen’s defense counsel gave an opening statement that promised the members that “over the course of this trial you’re going to hear that [the alleged victim] has told five different stories about what happened on that couch on the evening of Valentine’s Day of this year going into the 15th of February.” Gov’t Div. Br. at 2. Then, on cross-examination of the alleged victim, the defense elicited evidence of numerous prior inconsistent statements about the alleged offense. In response, the prosecution:
sought to call a CID special agent to testify to the victim’s prior consistent statements under Mil. R. Evid. 801(d)(1)(B)(ii). The defense objected.
The military judge ruled that M.R.E. 801(d)(1)(B)(ii) does not apply in this case and that the Government could not admit the victim’s CID statement as rehabilitation evidence. The Government appealed his decision under Article 62, UCMJ.
Gov’t Div. Br. at 3 (citations to record omitted). Mil. R. Evid. 801(d)(1)(B) is part of the hearsay rule and is identical to Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(1)(B). The federal rule was amended in 2014 in a way that makes any prior consistent statements of a witness non-hearsay, so long as the prior statement is otherwise admissible for rehabilitation (discussed here). The amendment was incorporated into the MCM in 2016 (noted here). The amendment did not, however, change what statements are otherwise admissible to rehabilitate a witness. See Fed. R. Evid. 801 advisory committee note to the 2014 amendment. See also United States v. Adams, 63 M.J. 691, 696-97 (A. Ct. Crim. App. 2006) (discussing circumstances when prior consistent statements are relevant).
Article 62 authorizes a prosecution appeal under certain, limited circumstances. One of them is of “an order or ruling which excludes evidence that is substantial proof of a fact material in the proceeding.” Article 62(a)(1)(B). Based on this authorization, the prosecution appealed the military judge’s ruling that prohibited the CID agent from testifying about the alleged victim’s prior statements.
But the Army CCA did not address the admissibility of the CID agent’s testimony. Rather, it rejected the prosecution’s appeal as unauthorized under Article 62. In a short order the CCA dismissed the appeal, concluding:
Contrary to appellant’s claim, the military judge did not issue “[a]n order or ruling which excludes evidence that is substantial proof of a fact material in the proceeding.” UCMJ art. 62(a)(l)(B) (emphasis added). Although Congress intended to provide military prosecutors, to the extent practicable, with the same rights of appeal afforded to federal civilian prosecutors in 18 U.S.C. § 3731 (i.e., the right to appeal trial rulings dismissing charges or excluding substantive evidence), the jurisdictional language codified by Congress in Article 62, UCMJ, differs from 18 U.S.C. § 3731. See United States v. Lopez de Victoria, 66 M.J. 67, 68-71 (C.A.A.F. 2008) (explaining the general intent of Congress in enacting Article 62, UCMJ).
Specifically, the plain language of 18 U.S.C. § 3731 confers appellate jurisdiction over trial orders suppressing evidence, only conditioned upon timely certification from the United States attorney. United States v. Grace, 526 F.3d 499, 505-06 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc). In contrast, the plain language of Article 62(a)(1), UCMJ, confers appellate jurisdiction for orders or rulings that actually meet specified criteria.
United States v. Jacobsen, No. 20160768, slip op. at 1 (A. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 6, 2017) (order) (marks in original) (discussed here). The Government Appellate Division sought reconsideration and the CCA reached the same conclusion on March 16, 2017, again highlighting the different language of the civil and military statutes.
The JAG then certified the case to CAAF to determine whether a CCA may determine that a prosecution appeal does not meet the Article 62 criteria despite a trial counsel’s certification that it does.
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