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Navy-Marine Corps Court Sets Aside Guilty Finding as Factually Insufficient

Article 66 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice establishes the Service Courts of Criminal Appeals. The Article states that each court may affirm only such findings of guilty and sentence as the court finds correct in law and fact and determines should be approved. Article 66 also states that in conducting this review, the court may weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, and determine questions of fact, while recognizing that the trial court saw and heard the witnesses.

This authority to review the factual determinations made at trial sets the Service appellate courts apart from their civilian counterparts. Servicemembers convicted at court-martial can appeal any guilty findings as being factually insufficient. The appellate courts review these claims with a fresh, impartial look at the evidence and come to their own conclusion as to whether the Government’s evidence proved each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

This unique authority was recently exercised by the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals in the case of United States v. Murphy. LCpl Murphy had been convicted of abusive sexual contact for touching the genitalia of his sister-in-law without her consent. At trial, the sister-in-law testified that she was lying on a bed with her sister, LCpl Murphy’s wife, when he climbed onto the bed in between them and reached over under a blanket and tried to “creep” to get to her vaginal area. She did not clarify where exactly he was alleged to have touched or what she considered to be her “vaginal area.” LCpl Murphy’s wife testified that she saw LCpl Murphy touching her sister’s hip. A police officer who interviewed the sister-in-law when she reported the offense testified that the sister-in-law seemed very uncertain of what had happened and was being prompted by her boyfriend on what to say.

Based upon the ambiguous nature of the testimony at trial and the inconsistencies with the testimony of LCpl Murphy’s wife and the police officer, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals was not convinced of LCpl Murphy’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court set his conviction and sentence aside as being factually insufficient and dismissed the charge.

If you or your loved one is facing a court-martial or wants to appeal a court-martial conviction, you need someone with experience who knows the law. I have the experience you need. Please call Bill Cassara at (706) 445-2943 for a free consultation.

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