Major Clarence Anderson III was sentenced to 42 months confinement and dismissal from the Air Force after being found guilty of sexual assault.
For those individuals facing court-martial there are four key decisions that need to be explained
in Major Anderson’s case because they pertain to every service member facing court-martial.
- Decision on counsel. Only you can decide who your military lawyer will be.
- Decision to plead not guilty. Only you can decide to plead not guilty or guilty.
- Decision on forum selection. Only you can decide whether a judge or military members decide innocence or guilt.
- Decision whether to testify. Only you can decide whether best for your case if you tell the fact-finder what happened.
Every accused has to make these four decisions, your attorney cannot decide for you. They can only advise. Each of the above mentioned decisions shapes are so fundamental to our notions of an accused’s right to a fair trial that the military judge will ask about each of your decisions in order to clarify during your trial, that you in fact made each of those decisions. In fact, the military judge’s clarification of your rights are one of the few times that the military judge will speak directly to the judge without speaking through the accused’s attorney. Shaping the Battle Field. Each of these decisions will ultimately play a major role in how the
trial is decided it should be fairly obvious that your choice of military defense lawyers should be the first and most important decision. Why? Let’s take a look at Major Anderson’s case as an example. Major Anderson’s forum selection is either military judge or military members (jury). In other words they are what is called the fact finder, the people who will ultimately decide guilt or innocence. Equally important is that the entity that decides guilt or innocence will be also decide you sentence if you are found guilty.
He Chose Judge Alone.
In Major Anderson’s case he chose the forum of judge alone. The prevailing thought among defense attorneys is that a jury is almost always more favorable. Why? With an audience of one, there is only one person for the prosecution to persuade that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are plenty of reasons that are case specific that you would choose to go judge alone. The first is that your case involves a highly technical legal defense that will not be understood by a jury of military members. Another is that you believe that you will be found guilty of at least one specification. A jury of military members cannot consider evidence and charges where you were found not guilty. However, there is a fear that the jury of military members will give you a harsher sentence from the residual emotions they have.
In Major Anderson’s the convicted conduct occurred over a long period of time. If the judge finds Major Anderson guilty of some but not all, under the law, the defense can reasonably advise their client that they believe his punishment will not be as harsh.
Making the best Decision.
It should be obvious at this point that although you have to make each of the decisions, you still want to make the best decision. When you finally get to trial you will have to rely on the advice of the advocate you have selected and that person needs to have the experience of seeing how each of your could play out. The best strategy is one that is based on experience.
If you are facing court-martial, call for a free consultation with experienced military defense lawyers.