A statement I made prior to trial was taken out of context at my court-martial, do I have an appeal?
You might. The military justice system has a unique rule when it comes to admitting a statement made by the accused prior to trial into evidence during his court-martial. Under Military Rules of Evidence (M.R.E.) 304(h)(2), if “only part of an alleged admission or confession is introduced against the accused, the defense, by cross-examination or otherwise, may introduce the remaining portions of the statement.” This rule is a “rule of completeness” and can be helpful to an accused if the government tries to enter only a portion of a statement of the accused. Sometimes if only excerpts or incomplete quotes are taken out of a statement provided by the accused, it may be taken out of context and imply that the accused confessed to the crime he is charged with. If the entire statement is provided, it can provide the necessary context surrounding the excerpt to show that the accused did not actually confess to the crime at all. Recently, in United States v. Yancey, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) set aside an appellant’s findings of guilty and his sentence finding that the military judge erred in not allowing the defense to admit other statements provided by the appellant when he was talking to a friend about pornography found on his computer. The government entered into evidence only a portion of a conversation that the appellant had with this Soldier who found child pornography on his computer. The defense then tried to enter into evidence the rest of the conversation that the appellant had with that Soldier to show context and that the appellant’s statement should not be viewed as a confession, but instead an explanation that the child pornography was encountered accidentally while searching online. The military judge did not allow the defense to admit these other statements made by the accused and this Soldier, even though he had allowed the government to admit portions of the conversation. ACCA found that the military judge erred under M.R.E. 304(h)(2)’s rule of completeness and should have allowed the defense to enter the rest of the conversation. ACCA therefore set aside the findings of guilty and the sentence. It is important that the attorney representing you or your loved one in his or her court-martial is aware of and has experience with all of the unique rules in the military. I have a great deal of experience with unique military rules, courts-martial and court-martial appeals. Call me for help now. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.