Air Force CCA puts limits on admissibility of victim impact statements.
Recently, on 7 July 2017, in United States v. Barker the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals made it clear that an alleged victim’s right to submit a victim impact statement during the sentencing phase of a court-martial has limits. Airman First Class Barker pled guilty to possessing and viewing child pornography at his court-martial. He was sentenced to 30 months confinement, a bad-conduct discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and reduction to E-1. During the sentencing phase of A1C Barker’s court-martial, the government asked to admit three written statements from three of the children alleged to be pictured in the child pornography. The government received all of the statements from the FBI, not from the victims themselves. Further, the victims did not come to the court-martial to present evidence that they authored the statements. Finally, each of the statements was dated prior to the alleged offenses occurring. The military judge allowed the statements to be admitted during the sentencing phase of A1C Barker’s court-martial. The AFCCA determined that the military judge erred in admitting two out of the three written statements. While the prosecution was able to tie one of the statements to the child pornography at issue based on its reference to one of the videos in evidence, the other two were not tied to the case. The AFCCA held that the government simply failed to connect the impact statements to the pornography involved and therefore, the statements were irrelevant. The AFCCA did not alter A1C Barker’s sentence because they held there was no prejudice in the error. However, this case shows that there are limitations to what the government can present in sentencing. Some prosecutors feel that they can submit any sort of evidence during sentencing, especially when the military judge has relaxed the evidentiary rules. This is simply not true. There are limits. I have a huge amount of experience litigating at the court-martial and appellate level. If you or your loved one is facing a court-martial or wants to appeal one, you need someone by your side with experience who knows that the limits are and when to object. This is one of the biggest decisions in your life, call now, don’t wait. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.