Do you feel your court-martial sentence was too severe? You may have a valid appeal.
If you have been sentenced severely at a court-martial, you may now be comparing your sentence with other cases that have similar facts. You may have discovered that you were punished much more severely than other servicemembers facing similar charges. Sometimes, there are actually companion court-martials. In these cases, the facts are intertwined. For instance, the facts might involve two servicemembers accused of sexually assaulting the same female at a party they attended together. If each of these two servicemembers face court-martials, it is likely that they will each have a different military judge or panel deciding their sentence. Therefore, if both are convicted it is very possible that one accused servicemember could receive a much harsher punishment than the other. For example, one of these accused servicemembers could receive two years confinement and one could receive six months confinement. Additionally, one servicemember could receive a bad conduct discharge, while the other receives a dishonorable discharge. If the cases are companion cases or have similar fact patterns then, this is simply unjust. Appellate courts will review a sentence if it is much more severe than another similar case. The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) has determined that appellate courts will engage in sentence comparison if the appellant is able to show that they received a “highly disparate” sentence than that in a “closely related case.” While this can be a difficult burden, it is certainly not impossible. It is especially easy to show that cases are “closely related” when they are companion cases. If the sentences are quite different, than this also must be shown. Once those two burdens are met there will be a determination as to whether there is a rational basis for the disparity. For example, an accused who is a highly decorated war veteran may receive a bad conduct discharge while an accused who has proven to be a trouble-maker throughout his service may receive a dishonorable discharge. In this case, there may be a rational basis for the disparity in discharge characterizations. Sometimes, however there is no rational basis and the appellate with the severe sentence is entitled to relief. If you believe that you or your loved one is entitled to appellate relief based on an overly severe sentence, give me a call. We can talk over your case for free. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.