CAAF decided United States v. Medina, No. 13-5002/CG, 72 M.J. 148 (CAAFlog case page) (link to slip op.), on May 2, 2013, affirming the CGCCA’s action setting aside the Appellee’s conviction of sodomy in violation of Article 125, entered in accordance with his pleas, because the trial military judge did not adequately discuss with the Appellee how his conduct was outside of a constitutionally protected liberty interest.

The case was certified to CAAF by the Judge Advocate General of the Coast Guard, and the Government’s brief included this request: “We ask this Court for greater amplification on whether the military judge’s method of drawing attention to the Marcum factors constitutes a legally sufficient inquiry under Hartman.” Gov’t Br. at 9.

Judge Ryan writes for a unanimous court in a short six-page opinion:

In Hartman, we recognized that the presence of a “Marcum factor” — a fact separate and apart from the act of sodomy itself — distinguishes that conduct which may be subject to criminal sanction, and that conduct which is constitutionally protected under Lawrence. We characterized that “additional fact” as “a matter of ‘critical significance’” because it “distin[guishes] between what is permitted and what is prohibited.”

Next, we emphasized that: “The fundamental requirement of [a] plea inquiry under [United States v. Care, 18 C.M.A. 535, 40 C.M.R. 247 (1969),] and [Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M.)] 910 involves a dialogue in which the military judge poses questions about the nature of the offense and the accused provides answers that describe his personal understanding of the criminality of his or her conduct.” Because the inquiry did not establish the accused’s personal understanding of the relationship between the facts he was admitting and why his plea to voluntary sexual activity with an adult could nonetheless be subject to criminal sanction, we held that the plea was improvident.

Here, pursuant to Appellee’s guilty plea to consensual sodomy, the military judge and Appellee engaged in a dialogue during which the military judge elicited facts in an attempt to demonstrate that Appellee’s sexual activity was subject to criminal sanction. However, the dialogue did not meet the requirements of Hartman or Care, which are different from the standard for legal sufficiency, because the military judge failed to ensure Appellee’s personal understanding of matters critical to his guilt; namely, why these additional facts removed his sexual activity from the protection recognized in Lawrence and Marcum and subjected that activity to criminal sanction. We therefore affirm the CGCCA’s decision that Appellee’s plea was improvident.

Slip op. at 4-6 (citations omitted). That seems to be well-amplified to me.

Case Links:
CGCCA opinion
Blog post: CGCCA sets aside plea of guilty to consensual sodomy on Hartman grounds
Appellant’s (Government) brief
Appellee’s brief
Appellant’s (Government) reply brief
Blog post: Argument preview
Oral argument audio
CAAF opinion
Blog post: CAAF affirms CGCCA’s ruling in the funky cold Medina
Blog post: Opinion analysis

Comments are closed.