Military Judges have a lot of discretion when it comes to how evidence is presented at a court-martial. Despite this, defense counsel must strongly advocate against a presentation that is disadvantageous to their client…

On 15 July 2013, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) in U.S. v. Brown ruled that a military judge did not abuse his discretion when he allowed an adult victim witness liaison to sit next to the alleged 17-year-old victim while she testified at a court-martial.  This type of arrangement is not advantageous to the accused for many reasons.  The defense counsel defending the accused at the court-martial objected to this presentation of the evidence.  However, despite the objections, the military judge allowed it because the alleged victim was sobbing uncontrollably and seemed absolutely unable to answer the questions during her court-martial testimony without support of this kind.  One of the reasons that CAAF upheld the military judge’s decision here was because there was no evidence in the record of trial that the advocate’s presence affected the defense counsel’s ability to cross-examine the victim.  This ruling gives me the impression that if defense counsel had simply complained about the presence or even the positioning of the liaison during the cross examination of the victim at the court-martial, CAAF may have ruled in the appellant’s favor.  Obviously, I was not present for the court- martial and am not sure if the defense counsel could have improved the appellant’s chances during this appeal.  However, I do believe now more than ever that a defense counsel’s job during a court-martial is to strongly advocate against anything that disadvantages his client.  This strong advocacy not only serves a client during the court-martial, but it also provides strong written evidence of discontent in the record of trial that may assist that client during a later appeal.  If you are facing a court-martial, you need a strong, experienced advocate by your side.  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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