Appellate court reprimands the government for combat tour not appearing in accused’s personnel records presented during and after court-martial.
I have chosen to blog about a recent Air Force appellate case named U.S. v. Parker because the written opinion in that case provides some insight into the judges sitting on military appellate courts. In this case, the daughters of the accused alleged that their father Senior Airman Parker had sexually abused them. The daughters made this allegation while the accused was deployed to Qatar. The accused was found guilty during the findings phase of his court-martial. During the sentencing phase of a court-martial, typically the trial counsel enters the service data of the accused into evidence. This might be done in the form of an Enlisted Records Brief (ERB) or some other personal data sheet. In this case, the government entered a personal data sheet for the accused that showed that he had no combat tours or overseas service. Clearly, this sheet was incorrect since the accusations from his daughters arose while he was deployed to Qatar. Then, later, when the convening authority was in a position to approve or disapprove the findings and sentence in this case, the government again provided the convening authority with an erroneous data sheet showing that the accused had no combat tours or overseas service. This was a careless mistake on the government’s part. The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (AFCCA) ultimately found that the accused was not materially prejudiced by this error, however, the AFCCA reprimanded the government for this careless mistake in the written opinion. The AFCCA reminded the government that while this court-martial may have been routine for them it was most likely the “single most important event” in the accused’s life. The court further stated that it certainly is also not “routine” to the family members and friends of the accused. The AFCCA stated that “[s]lip-shod treatment of the court-martial process, whether at the pre-trial, trial, or post-trial stage, cannot help but undermine the faith in the system itself, making it less effective overall as a tool for maintaining military discipline.” The words of the AFCCA provide insight about the judges who sit on military appellate courts. These judges demonstrated an understanding of how difficult a court-martial is on an accused and his or her loved ones. These judges recognize that the court-martial that an accused faces is a highly significant event that changes lives. If you or your loved one is looking to appeal their court-martial, the appeal will be reviewed by these or other similar minded judges. I have a lot of experience practicing in front of these appellate courts. If you or your loved one is thinking about appealing his or her court-martial case, please contact me so that I can review the case and look for appellate issues. I, like the AFCCA, recognize that a court-martial is a life changing event. For such an event, you or your loved one needs someone with experience by their side at both the court-martial and the appeal. I have a lot of experience with court-martials and court-martial appeals. Call me today. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.