The Navy Marine Corps Court of Appeals Addresses Inequity of the Deployment Justice System

The Navy Marine Corps Court of Appeals Addresses Inequity of the Deployment Justice System

At Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan in 2011, a Marine Staff Sergeant was tried for charges stemming from sexual intercourse he engaged in on the base, contrary to MEF and base orders. At trial, the Staff Sergeant was found guilty and sentenced to a bad conduct discharge, a reduction in rank to E-3, and confinement for 90 days.

During the course of questioning of the defendant, however, the trial judge departed from the judicial role of impartial neutrality and, according to the court of appeals "inexplicably departed from his neutral role and embarked upon what can only be characterized as a devastating cross-examination of the appellant. The military judge's tone was harsh, and his questions were pointed. The military judge repeatedly interrupted the appellant, and became increasingly aggressive over the course of the examination, to the point where the questions became both argumentative and demeaning."

Upon the defense counsel's movement for a mistrial, and later for the judge to recuse himself, the judge denied both motions and continued with the trial. The court of appeals, in reviewing the facts of the case as well as the procedure of the trial determined that the trial judge clearly broke from his role of neutrality, and that his error was neither structural nor harmless. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reverse and remanded the proceedings for a new trial.

Citation: US. v Young NMCCA 201200135

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