CAAF will determine if defense can offer evidence that a victim has made a false allegation of sexual assault in the past.

Last week, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) decided to review a specific issue in an Army case called United States v. Erikson. In this case, the appellant’s defense was that the alleged victim claiming he sexually assaulted her was lying.  Sometime prior to the court-martial in this case, defense discovered that this alleged victim had lied about being sexually assaulted before.  She had made an allegation against another soldier in the past and it had been confirmed to be a lie.  When the defense counsel tried to present this evidence of her prior false allegation during appellant’s trial, the military judge would not allow it.  To me, this is ironic because in sexual assault cases, the prosecutor is allowed to present evidence showing that the accused has the “propensity” to commit the sexual crime he is accused of.  To then rule that a defense counsel may not present evidence that the alleged victim has the “propensity” to lie about being sexually assaulted seems simply unfair.  This is unbalanced and this ruling needs to be overturned.  When this case went to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, they simply affirmed the findings and sentence and rendered no detailed opinion.  CAAF however is going to conduct a review of that military judge’s ruling.  My hope is that CAAF will rule that such evidence is admissible in a sexual assault case.  This will make for a more fair and balanced trial.  I have a great deal of experience with court-martials.  I am constantly reviewing appellate decisions such as these, so that I stay current with the law and know what I can or cannot present on behalf of my clients.  If you or your loved one is facing a court-martial, an appeal or any other adverse military action, don’t get help from just anyone.  Call someone with experience.  To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.

William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

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