CNN reports here that Bowe Bergdawl received a dishonorable discharge and avoided prison time.
The best thing about high profile cases is that it allows everyone to examine the justice system. Think O.J. After his case and to this day, legal scholars, pundits, and the public at large discuss it ad nauseum. Everyone has an opinion, but rarely has anyone watched the entire legal proceeding to understand how people, in both the case of Bowe Bergdahl and O.J. Simpson, and how the finder of fact came to their conclusion.
Bowe Bergdahl has four choices that he has to make. One of those decisions are whether he wants his case to be decided by either a judge or a military panel. In the case of Bergdahl he knew that he was going to be found guilty of something. The real question then, as his defense team concedes that he will have a federal conviction then becomes who is the best decision maker to give him a fair sentence.
In the military court system, the decider of guilt is also the entity that decides the punishment. In other words if you go with a judge in the guilty/not guilty phase, if you are found guilty, that same group will then decide an appropriate punishment after they hear additional evidence by the prosecution that is called evidence in aggravation. The defense will also have an opportunity to present matters in mitigation or extenuation. This part of the court-martial is an opportunity for the defense to give a better understanding.
This decision by the Bergdahl defense team was brilliant. Bergdahl had two facts that really should stand out to any decider of punishment. He was tortured for five years and he should have never been in the Army in the first place. In this case, a jury would have been either officer members or a mixed panel of enlisted (no lower in rank than the accused) and officers. One of many things Bergdahl would have needed to consider was whether his crimes and the testimony that another soldier is now permanently disabled in the pursuit of freeing Berdahl from his then captors.
Although there were so many decision to make, at some point Bergdahl had to understand the best chance for him to be a free man was to concede his career. A military judge is going to be able to see through the very emotionally charged testimony and not be moved from outside influences, like your Commander in Chief, saying the accused should be shot.
Bottom line is the defense team conceded the guilty vote in order to free their client. At least that’s how I see it. I believe a less capable defense team and a different decision by the client as to judge or jury would have put Bergdahl in jail for a lengthy amount of time, perhaps even life.
If you are in the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard and facing court-martial you need the best military attorney. Find the firm with the best military experience and is the right fit for you. Call Military Trial Defenders at 877-619-9657 for a free consultation or visit militarytrialdefenders.com for more information.
The above article is not legal advice. Every case is different and any person facing court-martial should seek the personal advice of an attorney. Google is not an attorney.
Christopher David Cazares
Attorney at Law