Air Force slow to handle appeals for convicted airmen, officers

By Michael Doyle | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON Timothy L. Merritt is waiting for final justice from the Air Force he once served.

The former master sergeant is only one of dozens of convicted airmen and officers remain who are stuck in legal limbo, as the seemingly overwhelmed Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals struggles with mixed success to manage its caseload. Frustration is boiling over, and senior judges are taking critical notice, as more decisions get delayed beyond the point officially considered unreasonable.

“Sitting in jail while you’re waiting for the Air Force to decide your case is pretty egregious,” Georgia-based lawyer William Cassara said Friday, adding that even appellants already released from prison “are waiting to get on with their lives.”

Cassara represents Merritt, who was court-martialed in Germany and whose case has languished before the Air Force appellate court for more than 30 months. That’s far too long, by the military’s own reckoning.