Coast Guard rape conviction overturned because commander stacked the jury with women advocates for victims
The nation’s highest military court has thrown out the 2012 rape conviction of a Coast Guard enlisted man because admirals and prosecutors packed the seven-member jury with five women, four of whom held jobs as advocates for victims of sexual assault.Sometimes military commanders can be rather arbitrary and capricious and this looks like one of those cases. This case looks reminiscent of some of the college Kangeroo Courts that have denied due process to men accused of sexual assaults.
In a 5-0 ruling that could change how the military conducts sex abuse trials, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces unleashed caustic criticism of all involved.
From the Coast Guard commandant down to an appellate court to the original trial judge, the high court said all contributed to a “stain on the military justice system.” The military has been under intense pressure to wipe out sexual harassment and assault, the five civilian judges noted.
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The opinion, delivered by Judge Margaret A. Ryan, said the four admirals who played a role in assembling the officer and enlisted jury pool produced an illegal “gender-based court stacking.” She suggested that the admirals’ role amounted to unlawful command influence, which military law analysts see as the enemy of fair trials for service members.
The court ruling said the trial judge “failed to conduct even a rudimentary investigation” into defense attorneys’ complaints of an unfair jury.
Even worse, the high court suggested that the enlisted man never would have been convicted by a more gender-proportionate jury. It said the evidence was so weak that a hearing officer had recommended dismissing the charges. The admiral overseeing the case overruled him.
“The Government’s case was weak, primarily based on the testimony of [name redacted], the putative victim, who was unable to remember many of the events surrounding the crime due to alcohol use and whose testimony was controverted by other witnesses at trial,” the opinion read.