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Court Martial Appeals

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What happens after the court-martial is over?

At the conclusion of the court-martial, the government is responsible for compiling a verbatim transcript (in most cases) of the testimony of the court-martial, and all of the “allied papers” which includes the police reports, Article 32 report, motions filed at trial, etc. This is called the Record of Trial (ROT.)

Once the record of the trial, or transcript, is completed, it is “served” on the defense counsel and the accused. The accused then has ten days to ask the convening authority for clemency. This ten day period can be extended for twenty additional days. The submission to the convening authority is an important step in the court-martial process. Great care should be taken in the preparation of the clemency petition. An attorney with experience in courts-martial and courts-martial appeals can assist in the preparation of the clemency petition. Unfortunately, due to recent action by Congress, the power of the convening authority to provide meaningful relief at clemency has been greatly curtailed.  Even though the convening authority has not taken final action on the sentence, any sentence of confinement begins immediately after the trial is over, unless deferred by the convening authority.

Once the convening authority takes final action, if the approved sentence includes confinement for more than one year, a punitive discharge or death, the case is automatically referred to the Court of Criminal Appeals of that particular service.  This may be the Army, Navy-Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals. This court consists of panels of three military appellate judges, whose sole job is to review courts-martial appeals from their service. At this stage, the service member is provided with a military attorney from the Defense Appellate Division of his or her service. In addition, the service member can retain a civilian attorney to represent him before the Court of Criminal Appeals.

This is the start of the appeals process, and is the most important step in getting relief on appeal.  Your attorney will prepare an appellate brief for submission to the court, which will outline errors made at trial, and matters that your attorney believes may have lead to an unfair trial.  This requires a thorough review of the ROT, research of applicable case law, and potentially interviews with witnesses.  It requires close coordination between the attorney and the client.

After the brief is submitted to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the government’s lawyers will then file a response. Then, your attorney can either file a “reply brief” request “oral argument” or rest on the brief that was filed.  These are all extremely important decisions, and require the services of an experienced court-martial appeals lawyer.

If the sentence does not meet the above requirements, an appeal is then processed by the office of the Judge Advocate General for your service.

If you have been convicted of a crime and want to seek an appeal,
contact our firm today for a free consultation.

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