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What is an unsworn statement?

PFC Manning’s unsworn statement delivered during the sentencing phase of his court-martial a few days ago has been all over the news.  During his statement he apologized for hurting people and for hurting the United States.  Some of you out there may be wondering what in the world an “unsworn statement” is.  This is a unique animal.  An unsworn statement is something that an accused servicemember can give after he has already been found guilty of a crime at his court-martial and is about to receive his sentence.  It is a chance for the accused to talk to the panel or military judge that will decide his sentence.  If an accused chooses to give an unsworn statement during the sentencing phase of his court-martial, it means that he will not be placed under oath and he will not be cross examined.  So in many respects, the unsworn statement is a chance to speak freely and openly about almost anything that he wants to.  An effective unsworn statement is typically one that causes the panel or military judge to feel sympathy for the accused or allows the panel or military judge to see that the accused is not a hardened criminal, but a person who made a mistake and can still offer something to society.  The unsworn statement can take many forms.  Some servicemembers choose to simply address the panel or military judge on their own by either reading a statement to them or delivering the statement without notes.  An unsworn statement is sometimes also delivered by the servicemember’s defense counsel.  Another very effective way to deliver an unsworn statement during the sentencing phase of the court-martial is to have the servicemember’s defense counsel place the servicemember on the stand and ask him a series of questions.  I have seen some servicemembers use this opportunity to vent to the panel members or the military judge about their decision to find him guilty of a crime.  I typically do not recommend this, but instead recommend that the servicemember focus on topics that may elicit a lighter sentence from the panel or military judge.  Each court-martial and each servicemember on trial is unique.  Knowing what to say and how to say it during one’s court-martial takes experience.  I have the experience you need if you are facing a court-martial or other adverse military action.  To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.

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