Admission of sexual intercourse with alleged sexual assault victim is not held against accused in Navy case.
It may surprise some of you to know that one cannot be convicted based on his confession of guilt alone. Military Rule of Evidence (M.R.E.) 304(c) states that a confession must have some form of corroboration supporting it to be entered into evidence at a court-martial and used to convict an accused. The corroborating evidence required is only “slight” corroboration. For example, one witness’ testimony, a text message or e-mail could be enough. It does not take a lot. However, if there is not sufficient corroboration, the government simply may not use the confession as evidence in a court-martial. In April 2015, I blogged about the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) decision to overturn a larceny conviction in United States v. Adams based on the fact that the military judge erred in allowing in the accused’s confession when there was no corroboration. Last week, on July 12, 2016, in United States v. Latour, the Navy-Marine Court of Criminal Appeals (NMCCA) made a similar ruling in a sexual assault case. In this case, a Navy E-3 was accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated female. He admitted to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) that he had sexual intercourse with the alleged victim, however he stated it was consensual. Additionally, the accused sent a text to the alleged victim stating that “[w]e made whoopy lol.” The government attempted to admit both of these statements from the accused during his court-martial. However, there was no other evidence to corroborate this. There was no testimony from the alleged victim, no other witness testimony and there was no physical evidence. The military judge in the court-martial did not allow the confessions into evidence based on M.R.E. 304(c). The government appealed this decision to the NMCCA and the NMCCA agreed with the military judge’s decision. The NMCCA held that the military judge did not err in keeping the confessions out based on M.R.E. 304(c). After CAAF made its decision in Adams, Congress placed language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016 to demand that M.R.E. 304(c) be significantly relaxed and conform to the corroboration rule in United States District Courts. Fortunately for the appellant in Latour, his case occurred prior to this change made by Congress. For future accused servicemembers, they will not have the benefit of a stricter corroboration rule at their court-martial. Therefore, now more than ever, if you or your loved one is facing a court-martial, you need an experienced advocate by your side. I have that experience. Call today. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.