Conviction overturned because government and military judge failed to admit appellant’s interview into evidence…

On 20 June 2016, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) overturned a conviction in a sexual assault case in United States v. Castillejo.  The reason this case was overturned was due to government and military error.  During an investigation, appellant provided an interview to the Army Criminal Investigations Division (CID).  The interview was videotaped.  The government played portions of the videotaped interview for the court-martial panel members.  The government also referred to portions of the videotaped interview during their closing argument.  The government intended to send the videotaped interview back with the panel during deliberations, however it was not possible because it contained the entire interview instead of just the portions played by the government during the court-martial.  Defense counsel never objected to the playing of the videotape during the court-martial despite the fact that the government never entered it into evidence formally during the trial.  The military judge allowed the panel members to hear and consider the videotaped interview despite it not being entered into evidence during the court-martial.  Appellant was found guilty at his court-martial.  He was sentenced to 3 months confinement, a bad conduct discharge, a reduction to E-1 and some forfeitures.  On appeal, ACCA found that the military judge erred by allowing the panel to view the videotaped interview without it being admitted into evidence.  Additionally, ACCA found that the portions of the videotaped interview that were played for the panel were prejudicial to appellant.  Therefore, ACCA dismissed the findings and the sentence.  This case shows that military judges sometimes make errors.  This case shows that government counsel also can make errors in a court-martial.  In this case, the errors resulted in the conviction being overturned.  Appeals can be quite successful.  I have a vast amount of experience with both court-martials and court-martial appeals.   If you feel you should appeal the result of your court-martial, give me a call.  Also, if you or a loved one is about to face a court-martial and want to speak with someone with experience, give me a call.  The consultation is free.  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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