You may be able to seek post court-martial conviction relief in Federal Court as a “collateral attack.”
Last week on 13 May 2015, I posted a blog about the different ways that you can seek post court-martial conviction relief through military leaders and through the military court system. I did not address the fact that you can actually attempt to appeal a court-martial conviction through the civilian court system as well. Once all military appeals are completed, one can attempt to file an appeal in federal court, however, it is rare for a federal court to intervene and grant relief. In the 2012 case, Faison v. Belcher, the petitioner, a federal prisoner convicted by a military court-martial, filed a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §2241 to attempt to get his court-martial conviction overturned by the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. The petition was denied by the district court so the petitioner appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. In the end, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, however, the Court provided some specifics as to what a convicted servicemember must show to be granted review by a federal civilian court. The Court explained that “a federal district court’s review of a military conviction is initially limited to whether the petitioner’s claims were given ‘full and fair consideration by the military courts.’” The Tenth Circuit also stated that “an issue has been given full and fair consideration when it has been briefed and argued at the military court, even if that court summarily disposed of the issue.” So, in other words, once appeals are complete on the military side, a petitioner must show that the matters being brought up in federal court were not, and could not, have been raised during the military appeals. A federal court is limited in its review of a military conviction to those issues not raised or considered on prior appeal. Therefore, you generally need new evidence not previously available. As I briefly explained in last week’s blog, the Supreme Court of the United States also has discretion under 28 U.S.C. § 1259 to review court-martial convictions on direct appeal where the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) has conducted a review or has granted relief. If the CAAF has denied a petition for review or a writ appeal, consideration by the Supreme Court may be obtained only through collateral review (e.g., a writ of habeas corpus). It is important to know that while a court-martial conviction is daunting, it is not the end of the road. There are many avenues available to seek post conviction relief. First, there are the military avenues I explained last week. Second, there are possibilities in the civilian court system as well. You should have an advocate by your side with experience as you seek this relief. If you or a loved one has been convicted at court-martial, you need an experienced court-martial appeal attorney. I have this experience. The call is free. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.